EPL: Sheffield Steeldogs and Hull Pirates striving to make big points

Sheffield Steeldogs and Hull Pirates face off against each other this weekend. Picture: Roger Williams.
Sheffield Steeldogs and Hull Pirates face off against each other this weekend. Picture: Roger Williams.
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SAM TOWNER says Hull Pirates need to step up defensively as a team and help ease the workload on goalie Martins Raitums.

Towner’s comments follow last weekend’s defeats to Manchester Phoenix and Bracknell Bees, teams either side of them who Hull needed to beat in order to retain their already slender hopes of making the play-offs.

We were leaving Marty out to dry. He’s a top-class goalie but he’s not going to save backdoor stuff, he’s not going to save third or fourth rebound stuff, no goalie will.

Sheffield Steeldogs’ Sam Towner

It is only a matter time for it to become mathematically impossible for Hull to make the post-season, the fatal blow could even be landed this weekend.

But, enjoying home advantage on both days, hopes are high that Dominic Osman’s team can end a barren run that has left them 16 points adrift of eighth-placed Manchester with just 10 games to play.

First up are Guildford Flames on Saturday before a Yorkshire derby against Sheffield Steeldogs 24 hours later. The Pirates have yet to win against either team.

In order for that to happen, Hull-born 26-year-old Towner said the team needed to collectively improve defensively to help Latvian stopper Raitums, who was replaced after two periods against Manchester, facing 20 shots before being hit with 41 more in the 4-3 defeat to Bracknell 24 hours later.

“We were leaving Marty out to dry,” said Towner. “He’s a top-class goalie but he’s not going to save backdoor stuff, he’s not going to save third or fourth rebound stuff, no goalie will.

“We’ve got to help him out there and then, hopefully, the rest will take care of itself.”

Despite enduring what was always going to be an anticipated tough debut campaign for the Pirates, Towner said the players needed to reward the loyalty shown by the supporters by picking up as many points between now and the end of the season to build some momentum and offer hope for the 2016-17 campaign.

“The support is there, it’s up to us now,” added Towner. “There are no more excuses so we have got to try to get as many points as we can from now until the end of the season.”

Before heading down the M62 to Hull to try and make it five wins from as many meetings with the Pirates, Greg Wood’s Steeldogs will look to close the gap on the top six and arrest a run of three straight defeats when they travel to leaders Basingstoke Bison tonight.

Like Hull, Sheffield had a pointless weekend last time out, losing out 5-12 at home to Telford Tigers before going down 8-3 on the road at Peterborough Phantoms.

Previous visits to Hampshire have seen Sheffield lose 5-0 in November before a splendid 2-1 victory last month when goals from Arnoldas Bosas and Andrew Hirst secured both points in a tempestuous encounter which saw both teams rack up more than 200 minutes in penalties between them.

“It will be tough playing two games on the road,” said Steeldogs captain Ben Morgan. “But we see it as a weekend where we can certainly pick up points.”