EPL: Play-off tilt now the primary focus for Sheffield Steeldogs

Cole Shudra, who splits his playing time between Sheffield Steeldogs and neighbouring Elite League champions the Steelers, could be back for the Steeldogs to face Telford and Hull this weekend. Picture: Dean Woolley.
Cole Shudra, who splits his playing time between Sheffield Steeldogs and neighbouring Elite League champions the Steelers, could be back for the Steeldogs to face Telford and Hull this weekend. Picture: Dean Woolley.
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GREG WOOD says Sheffield Steeldogs are effectively embarking on a new ‘mini-season’ in the English Premier League as they attempt to time their form to perfection for the play-offs.

Early-season hopes of competing for regular season honours have long disappeared for the South Yorkshire club, who find themselves sitting in the eighth and final play-off spot with 16 games remaining.

Sheffield Steeldogs' player-coach, Greg Wood. Picture: Peter Best.

Sheffield Steeldogs' player-coach, Greg Wood. Picture: Peter Best.

Ninth-placed Bracknell Bees may slowly be closing the gap, but Wood is confident his team have enough quality to not just get themselves over the line into the post-season but also pose a genuine threat to the higher-placed teams.

“Everything now is about making sure we nail that eighth spot and I’m confident we will,” said Wood, whose team travel to leaders Telford Tigers tonight before hosting Hull Pirates tomorrow.

“What we’ve said now is that this is a mini-season for us. From this point onwards we’ve got to build and improve so that we can give ourselves a fighting chance when it comes to the play-offs.

“We’ve got different goals now compared to the start of the season, we’re just trying to make sure we peak at the right time. We have to be in top form when the middle of March comes, that is the key time for us.”

After injury and suspension left him with just six forwards for last weekend’s defeats to Swindon and Basingstoke, Wood will have enforcer Callum Pattinson back in the line-up, while he also hopes to see youngster Cole Shudra return to the fray too.

Hull, with only one win in six, will look to bounce back from their EPL Cup semi-final defeat to Milton Keynes in midweek when they travel to third-placed Peterborough tonight before heading to South Yorkshire where they will hope to maintain the 100 per cent record they have against Sheffield so far this season.

The Steeldogs only have two more opportunities in the regular season to get the better of their Yorkshire rivals, who enjoyed a 3-2 win on their last visit to South Yorkshire.

“The last time we played at our place we dominated and should have easily come out of that with two points but, those small margins, we came out on the wrong side of it,” added Wood.

“We’ve got two more games left against them this season and we need to get on the board against them.”