EPL: Sheffield Steeldogs look to close gap on rivals | Hull Pirates target second spot

SHEFFIELD STEELDOGS player-coach Greg Wood hopes his team can finally find a way to get the better of defending English Premier League champions Basingstoke Bison this weekend.

Sheffield Steeldogs' player-coach, Greg Wood.
Sheffield Steeldogs' player-coach, Greg Wood.

Three times the South Yorkshire club have faced their Hampshire rivals this season, three times they have come off second-best.

The Steeldogs’ latest chance to redress the balance in the six-game series between the two teams comes tomorrow night at Ice Sheffield, following tonight’s trip to Swindon Wildcats.

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Wood’s team are sat in sixth and find themselves sandwiched between their weekend opponents, keen to prevent fifth-placed Bison from increasing the three-point advantage they currently enjoy.

“As long as we can be in touch with the top four or five teams come the Christmas period, I’ll be happy,” said Wood.

“We can’t afford to let those teams up there get too far away from us.

“It’s about breaking each head-to-head series down on its own merits. Every time we’ve played Basingstoke before they’ve been pretty close games. We have certainly never been outplayed.

“It would be nice to find a way to get back into the series against them, starting this Sunday.”

Wood admitted he was pleased with his team’s response to the previous week’s 3-0 defeat at home to Bracknell Bees – a display which Wood apologised to fans for on his personal Twitter account.

What was particularly frustrating for Wood was that it came at a time when his team was back to full-strength for the first time in weeks, although his players’ ability to bounce back with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Guildford Flames three days later went a long way to getting back in his good books.

“I was pleased with the way we bounced back after the Bracknell game,” added Wood.

“We’ve often struggled down in Guildford and it was a massive boost for us to get the win against high-budget, highly-skilled team like that.”

Hull Pirates will be striving to overhaul second-placed Milton Keynes Lightning, who sit one point and one place above them in the standings.

Dominic Osman’s team host Peterborough Phantoms tonight before travelling to Guildford Flames tomorrow.

Osman’s team will be buoyed by last weekend’s 4-1 win over Bracknell which came courtesy of goals from Andrej Themar (2), Osman and Stanislav Lascek.

After the weekend, Hull will take on Great Britain Under-20s on Wednesday (7.30pm) as part of their preparations for December’s World Championship in Budapest.

GB begin a two-day camp on Tuesday 15th November and will include on-ice and off-ice sessions at Ice Sheffield before their trip to Hull.

“When Tom (Watkins, GB Under-20 coach) called me regarding the opportunity to play the Under-20s we jumped at the opportunity,” said Osman.

“It will also be a good skate for us as a team before a big weekend. We have two players who will be icing for GB so it will be a good chance for us to look at them from the opposing side.”