HEAD coach Ryan Aldridge has backed returning youngster Tom Murdy to push Dean Skinns all the way as the pair battle to be Swindon Wildcats’ starting netminder.

Murdy suffered a groin injury in pre-season which kept him sidelined for the opening months of the campaign, but he returned to the ice for Sunday night’s 3-2 victory away at the EPL’s bottom team, Telford Tigers.

Skinns has been a rock between the pipes for the Link Centre side so far this term and is likely to resume his place for the Boxing Day clash with Peterborough, but Aldridge is expecting the pair to battle it out for the rest of the season.

“I think he did well on his first game of the season, and he is feeling very confident in his injury now and it is better than it ever has been, so it is good to have him back,” he said.

“He was very quick off the mark and made some good saves, but to get back up to his full game play is going to take a fair bit of time.

“Skinnsy has been outstanding for us this season and he doesn’t deserve to be left out, but we decided to play Tom because of who we were playing against and it was an ideal time to get him back in.

“It was away from home and a bit less stressful for him, and now they are both going to be fighting for the spot really hard.

“There will be games where we want to play Tom to get him a bit more game time, but Skinnsy doesn’t deserve to lose that top spot and he will probably play our tougher games at the moment.

“But to have them both back at a time when we have a very tough run of fixtures over Christmas is a great thing which will really help us out.”

Aldridge is also pleased with the progress being made by young forward Floyd Taylor, who impressed enough at Telford to be handed the man of the match award.

“He is a solid hockey player with a real grit and determination about him which I like a lot,” he said.

“He has been outstanding for us when he has played so far this year, but he still has a lot to learn and experience to gain, but he is going about it in the right way.”

Wildcats are not in action this weekend as they prepare for their busy Christmas schedule, which begins on Boxing Day with a home clash against Peterborough Phantoms at the Link Centre before they host Guildford Flames on December 28.