HULL PIRATES’ player-coach Dominic Osman admits his team is entering the “business end” of the season in their battle for the English Premier League title.
The East Yorkshire club go into weekend games against Swindon Wildcats and Manchester Phoenix sitting fourth in the standings, although their chances of catching runaway leaders Telford Tigers remain remote with the Shropshire club currently 15 points ahead.
Of added interest later this week for Osman and his players is the first leg of the EPL Challenge Cup semi-final against Milton Keynes Lightning, who come to Hull on Thursday night before the return leg in Buckinghamshire the following Wednesday.
But first they must ensure they remain in touch with the teams above them, something Osman is confident his players can do.
“Everything that we’ve done until now has put us in a great position and given us a great opportunity to finish in the top four,” said Osman.
“But the bottom line is we’re not satisfied with it and we want more. I feel we do have a team that is capable of doing something special this year.”
Hull return home after Saturday night’s trip to Wiltshire against seventh-placed hosts Swindon, to play host to bottom club Manchester Phoenix who are desperate to close the gap on Roses rivals Sheffield Steeldogs, who sit eight points clear in the final available play-off spot.
The Steeldogs go into Saturday night’s must-win clash with fellow strugglers Bracknell Bees without Czech Republic-born forward Pavel Mrna.
The 28-year-old has been released by player-coach Greg Wood, who is already working on bringing in a replacement.
“This is not a decision we have taken lightly,” said Wood of a player who had scored 35 points in 23 games, but also 197 minutes in penalties. “When on top form and free from suspension he is one of the league’s leading players.
“Unfortunately, we as a club need our key players available and his disciplinary record goes before him.”
Wood added that he knew the kind of player he wanted to bring in to give his team a much-needed lift, given they sit just six points above ninth-placed Bracknell ahead of their Ice Sheffield encounter.
“I am already working hard to find a replacement that will give us an added edge that we have been missing over the past five-six weeks. I know the area I want to strengthen and I will do my upmost to bring in the right guy for our team.
“I would like to thank Pav for his commitment and time with the Steeldogs. He is a very good person and no doubt will be a success wherever his career takes him.”
Sunday sees Wood take his team on the road to third-placed Peterborough Phantoms once more, just a week after they were soundly thrashed 10-2 by Slava Koulikov’s side.
A 6-1 reverse on home ice the following night against the same opponents means Wood’s team have won just one of their last 16 matches.