Dominic OSMAN has refused to rule his Hull Pirates team out of the English Premier League title equation – but admits the coming weeks will be crucial to their chances.
The East Yorkshire club – still only in their second season – gave themselves a festive boost earlier this week with two wins in as many nights over struggling Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Steeldogs.
The Pirates – currently fourth in the standings – are next in action on Monday, travelling to bottom club Manchester Phoenix where they will hope to close the 16-point gap on leaders Telford Tigers.
“There are still a lot of points to be had,” said Hull player-coach Osman. “But I would say the next couple of weeks are crucial for us, in terms of whether we will be able to realistically catch them or not.
“But if we can get some momentum going then things can turn around pretty fast.”
Having suffered a three-game losing streak before Christmas, Hull bounced back in positive fashion in the first of their double-header against Sheffield, romping to a deserved 8-4 triumph.
Goals came from the stick of Andrej Themar (2), Stanislav Lascek, Jason Hewitt, Andrew Hirst, Ugnius Cizas, Josh Gent and Nathan Salem.
The following night at Ice Sheffield proved a much tighter affair, but the Pirates prevailed again, winning 3-2 through strikes from Osman and Lascek, with Cizas’s 56th-minute powerplay strike proving the difference.
“I feel we outplayed them on both nights and fully deserved the points,” added Osman.
“It was certainly good to get back to winning ways, but I felt that our performances had still been good before Christmas, we just didn’t get the odd bounce here and there.”
On paper, Monday night’s meeting with Manchester should prove a simple task for Hull – the Pirates having won all three previous meetings between the two sides.
But Osman believes that Tony Hand’s team are still in with a chance of gate-crashing the play-offs, sitting eight points adrift of eighth-placed Sheffield with three games in hand.
“They’ve been winning games recently and they are not out of the play-off picture by a long way so they have plenty to play for,” said Osman.
Steeldogs’ player-coach Greg Wood will attempt to rally his players after their double derby setback in a weekend double header against third-placed Peterborough, who returned to third spot above Hull with Thursday night’s 3-0 win over second-bottom Bracknell.
Steeldogs are on the road Sunday to Cambridgeshire before returning home to host Slava Koulikov’s side.
In the two previous meetings this season, Sheffield have prevailed, winning 2-1 on home ice on September 10, before enjoying a 5-4 triumph in Peterborough in October.
The two sides will meet again for a third time in eight days on Sunday, January 8.