EPL preview: Teams begin to eye play-offs

With Basingstoke Bison edging ever-closer to clinching the EPL title, teams lower down the table are looking to build momentum ahead of the end-of-season play-offs.

Sheffield Steeldogs head into the weekend looking to improve on a run of just two wins in their last eight games, but Player/Coach Greg Wood says his team are capable of competing against the top sides.

“Over the last eight games or so our performance has dropped off a little and we were getting away from the things that were making us successful.

“Over the next few weeks we have to play to our strengths, recognise what we do to make ourselves successful and replicate that. If we play to the level that we can do, the level we have shown many times this season, then we can match any team in this league.

“We have to eliminate the individual mistakes and also the breakdowns in our team systems. We have a few weeks now to focus on that to give us the best chance coming into the run in for the play-offs.

“We play Peterborough Phantoms at home on Saturday – a very good team. We have a feeling we could be playing them in the play-offs.

“It will be a good chance to test ourselves. We’re more than capable of taking the game to them and coming out with a positive result.”

Telford Tigers also have an eye on the play-offs as they face Manchester Phoenix and the Steeldogs this weekend.

Tigers’ 3-1 defeat against Bison last Saturday effectively ended their faint hopes of retaining their title, leaving the play-offs as their final chance of silverware this season.

Head Coach Tom Watkins said: “It’s been our goal for a while, so there’s not really a switch in focus. We’ve been playing hard since Christmas and playing well in most games.

“We haven’t dropped many games in that time. I have been disappointed with how we’ve played against teams effectively above us, where we didn’t pick up enough points.

“We also dropped points against Sheffield when they played us here last time, so we know our focus. There’s under a month to go and I’ve said before that if guys don’t know their tasks now, they shouldn’t be here.”

Saturday sees Telford make the trip to Deeside to face Manchester Phoenix, while on Sunday Sheffield travel to Shropshire for the last time this season.

Watkins added: “It is a tight league and both teams have got some quality players. If you look at Manchester, Kovar is second in the scoring, and Bosas in Sheffield is first.

“They’ve got good offense and Sheffield’s Brits are walk-ons, so both teams can beat anyone at any point. We tried very hard to sign Mark Thomas in the summer, which shows the calibre of player Manchester have.

“Everyone in this league now has got good players. So you have to be organised, disciplined and sacrifice something for the team. That is perhaps where we have come unstuck a little bit.”

WEEKEND FIXTURES

Saturday

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

Sunday

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

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