EPL preview: Pirates confident despite Tigers defeat

Hull Pirates face another tough looking weekend as they try to keep their faint hopes of clinching an EPL play-off slot alive.

Pirates host Telford Tigers on Saturday, before travelling to face Peterborough Phantoms the following day and they will hope to improve on last week’s results against the same two opponents.

The Humberside outfit fell 6-1 at home to the Phantoms, before producing a much improved effort at Telford on Sunday.

They lost that game 3-2, but forward Nathan Salem believes the performance gives them something to build on.

“There was a lot of improvement on Sunday compared with the Saturday,” he said. “I thought we worked a lot harder and we took our chances a lot better.

“It was my second time going back to Telford – it’s always nice to play against your old team and see a few old faces in the stands. It was good and I really enjoyed it.

“It’s given the boys a bit of a confidence boost going into this weekend to only lose 3-2, considering the last two times we’ve been there we’ve conceded seven or eight goals.”

Pirates will face a Tigers team boosted by the signing of Estonian international Andrei Markov.

Head Coach Tom Watkins brought in the forward to boost his squad which has struggled to mount a serious defence of their title.

He said: “Around the front of the net is somewhere we need to be better, and that’s where we’ve dropped a lot of points so far this season.

“To create the offense, you have to capitalise on the offense as well. The longer you leave a team in a game, the more confidence they get and the more frustrated we become.

“We have got to be taking those scoring opportunities when they present themselves and start burying games.

“Having Andrei here gives us a lot of different options to look at, especially with the way we balance the team out on any given night.

“Whether we go with three import forwards and one import defenceman, or even four import forwards, it helps to change the dynamic of what we do.”

Basingstoke Bison face the Phantoms on Saturday, before travelling to Sheffield Steeldogs on Sunday, aiming to strengthen their grip on top spot in the EPL.

Head Coach Doug Sheppard, who has boosted his defensive options with the addition of Basingstoke Buffalo’s Dan Lackey on a full-time basis, is eagerly anticipating the weekend ahead.

He said: “Saturday is the biggest game of the season and I am sure the guys will be up for it.

“They were in a bit of a rut when we played the last time, but they are now hitting form, so it is going a really good contest between two very evenly matched teams.

“Sheffield have beaten us in the last two games we have played against them, so it’s important we find a way to beat them again.

“Once we have played on Saturday, we then really focus on what will be another tough game.”

Ahead of Sunday’s clash with Bison, Steeldogs travel to Manchester Phoenix on Saturday looking to maintain their recent good form.

13 wins from their last 20 games has pushed Steeldogs onto the fringes of the top half of the table.

The run included an impressive 2-1 victory over Bison in a bad-tempered clash at Basingstoke and defensemen Lewis Bell expects another fiery encounter on Sunday.

“We had a lively game with them last time out,” said Bell. “We are a tight knit team and we’re looking forward to the game.

“It probably will have a physical edge to it, as they always do against the Bison. The game last time left a sour taste in some people’s mouths, but we aren’t looking to start anything, we just want to play.

“But if people are coming to seek retribution, we have guys who are willing to stand up and answer the bell.”

WEEKEND FIXTURES

Saturday

Basingstoke Bison v Peterborough Phantoms
Bracknell Bees v MK Lightning
Hull Pirates v Telford Tigers
Manchester Phoenix v Sheffield Steeldogs
Swindon Wildcats v Guildford Flames

Sunday

Bracknell Bees v Manchester Phoenix
Peterborough Phantoms v Hull Pirates
Sheffield Steeldogs v Basingstoke Bison
Telford Tigers v MK Lightning

(Image permission: Arthur Foster)

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