Leeds Force v Cheshire Phoenix: Nelson buoyed by matchday improvements

Leeds Force coach Danny Nelson is confident his team can avenge their heartbreaking defeat to Cheshire Phoenix last week by defeating their cross-Pennine rivals in tonight's highly-anticipated BBL rematch at Carnegie Sports Arena, writes SEB GIGNER.

Leeds Force coach Danny Nelson has given his roster's improvement the thumbs up. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

A disastrous late-game collapse last Sunday saw Force scupper a lofty 16-point lead with seven minutes remaining, as Phoenix rose from the ashes and snatched a second victory in three weeks against Nelson’s deflated Force. Despite the tough nature of defeat, a determined Nelson insists Force can bounce back and dish out some instant payback as Leeds search for a second victory of the 2017/18 campaign.

“It was a tough defeat to handle, we had control of the game but lost our ball movement and made some costly mistakes that gave Cheshire a chance to fight their way back,” Nelson said.

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“We’re getting better against them – they beat us by 20 points two weeks ago, but we worked on our play and should have won last week so we know we can compete for the victory tonight. There were so many positives despite the loss, everyone stepped up and I think we’re at our highest level of performance yet, so things are looking good for Leeds Force.”

New Leeds Force recruit, Rafail Tsourakis.

Force charge into tonightboosted by the signature of Greek forward Rafail Tsourakis, who made his Leeds debut in Cheshire last week – an acquisition Nelson believes fits Force’s European identity (Force have also signed 5’ 11” guard Chris De Souza from Spanish club Union Linense Baloncesto.)

“I prefer a European style of basketball, and try to recruit players that fit that philosophy. Rafail is a great guy from one of the homes of world basketball in Greece, he fits into our system and adds an exciting touch of quality to Leeds Force. Bringing in new players to improve the roster is always important; it’s a continuous project and, as we build our team chemistry, we’ll continue to improve and compete every night.”

A quick turnaround sees Force travel north of the border to face Glasgow Rocks at Emirates Arena on Sunday, but the Irishman says Leeds must first keep their eyes fixed firmly on tonight’s pivotal match-up.

“Glasgow will be tough, but right now we’re focused solely on getting the job done against Cheshire – it’s always one game at a time. We have to finish strongly, they beat us badly – it hurt – we’ve regrouped and we have to finish the job tonight.”

New Leeds Force signing, Chris De Souza.
New Leeds Force recruit, Rafail Tsourakis.
New Leeds Force signing, Chris De Souza.