EPL: Roses clash presents opportunity for Sheffield Steeldogs to rebound

Sheffield Steelers' player-coach, Greg Wood.
Sheffield Steelers' player-coach, Greg Wood.
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Sheffield STEELDOGS will look to bounce back from a blank weekend when hosting Roses rivals Manchester Phoenix.

In another game that doubles up as a League Cup tie on Saturday night, it will be the first chance Greg Wood’s side will have had to look at a team who are their closest rivals, both geographically – naturally – and in terms of league standings.

We do show a cracking team spirit. As long as we stay positive and put the effort in we are always going to have a chance.

Sheffield Steeldogs’ Andy Hirst.

After drawing a blank last weekend, the Steeldogs slipped to eighth in the Englsih Premier League table, four points above second-bottom Phoenix, who nhave endured a tough start to the campaign, boasting just the one win so far, beating Bracknell Bees 5-0.

In recent weeks, head coach Tony Hand has struggled for numbers, with the Phoenix roster only being able to run two full lines up front.

Last weekend saw them also draw a blank when following up a 4-2 reverse on the road at Telford Tigers with a 5-1 reverse on home ice against Swindon Wildcats.

Despite the Steeldogs own troubles last weekend when losing twice to defending league champions Basingstoke Bison, forward Andy Hirst takes comfort from the team spirit which is developing quickly under player-coach Wood.

“The guys who have been here for such a long time have, guys like Ben Morgan and Lewis Bell and Tim Smith, it’s in their identity to keep battling and that’s why we are so close,” said Hirst.

“We don’t blame each other, we don’t get on each other’s backs but we do show a cracking team spirit. As long as we stay positive and put the effort in we are always going to have a chance.”

Hull Pirates, meanwhile, will look to respond after their 6-3 defeat at Guildford Flames last Sunday when they travel to Basingstoke.

The following day they will look to maintain their 100 per cent home record when welcoming second-placed Milton Keynes Lighning to Hull Ice Arena, the Buckinghamshire side having hosted Telford 24 hours earlier.

It was the Lightning who inflicted Hull’s first defeat of the season when the two sides met down south two weeks ago, the hosts prevailing 5-4.

Jason Hewitt, the former Sheffield Steelers’ forward who has proved such a hit since arriving in East Yorkshire, felt the Pirates were unlucky not to take something from that encounter.

“I thought we played fine that night and, but for them having a hot goalie, we could easily have come out on top,” he said.

“They scored two quick goals late on which took the wind out of our sails but, overall, we should be happy with how we performed down there.”