DEAN Birrell is aiming to ease the tension for Oxford City Stars fans after their stunning comeback at MK Thunder.

The Oxfordshire side’s hopes were fading fast as they reached the end of the second period 4-1 down.

But Joe Edwards, Josh Oliver and captain Dax Hedges all scored to send the NIHL Division One South clash to overtime, with the equaliser coming in the final two minutes.

The drama did not end there, as Mike Whillock struck with 17.6 seconds left to secure a 5-4 victory.

It sealed back-to-back wins for Stars and Birrell admitted he would rather future triumphs were a little more comfortable.

“We’re putting them through the mill at the moment, but hopefully that will get better,” the head coach said.

“When our fans get behind us, they roar.

“I would really love to get more people through the door and see it full.”

It was a nightmare start to the evening for Stars, who found themselves 3-0 down at the end of the first period.

Logan Prince pulled one back straight after the restart, but within two minutes the hosts made it 4-1.

Then came the comeback, which left skipper Hedges full of pride at his teammates’ fight.

He added: “It was great to get another win.

“The boys showed good heart to stick at it and get the full points.

“We didn’t make it easy for ourselves, but they all count.”

Stars’ upturn in form follows a difficult start to the season, which began with a five-match winless run.

Birrell’s side have played fewer games than four of the six teams above them, but their coach admits the opening month of the campaign has proved tougher than expected.

“I think I underestimated the league,” he admitted.

“We’ve seen a pattern where we were starting off very well, easing up in the middle period and in the third period we were struggling.

“It wasn’t for the want of trying, it was maybe through our fitness levels – what we need is ice fitness.

“Watching us skating in training, other coaches and I were really impressed.

“Come the game situation, we were further down the ladder than we thought we were.

“The league has progressed and it’s starting to show.

“The teams that we used to get points from have taken points from us.

“We’re working on a different tactical system and slowly start to see results.

“I’m not going to say that it’s done, but we’ve seen progress within the team.”

Stars visit fourth-placed Solent Devils on Saturday (5pm), a fortnight after beating the south coast side 3-1 at Oxpens.

They are back at home 24 hours later, when they entertain Bristol Pitbulls (6pm).