Sheffield Steeldogs v Leeds Chiefs – Ben Morgan expecting to match progress made by newcomers

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Sheffield Steeldogs' Ben Morgan faces off against Leeds Chiefs' player-coach Sam Zajac on Friday night.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Sheffield Steeldogs' Ben Morgan faces off against Leeds Chiefs' player-coach Sam Zajac on Friday night.
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BEN MORGAN expects his Sheffield Steeldogs team to come up against a much stronger Leeds Chiefs team when the two meet for a second time this season at Ice Sheffield on Friday night (7.30pm).

The Chiefs may be bottom of NIHL National with only one win to their name, but player-coach Morgan is under no illusion over the quality his team will face for the first time since the two met on the opening weekend of the division’s inaugural season when the Steeldogs won 3-1.

The challenges faced by Sam Zajac’s team both before and during this season have been well-documented but they have shown in all eight games played so far that they havethe potential to be a play-off contender, not that Morgan expected anything less.

“From the start of the season, regardless of what their results were going to be, I genuinely expected them to get better and better as the season went on,” said Morgan, whose team will be looking to bounce back from narrow defeats to Swindon and Telford last weekend.

“If you look at the results they have run a lot of teams very close, particularly in recent weeks, so their points tally does not reflect how well they are playing.

“But, like they will be, we’ve got to be better compared to how we were in that first game.”

WE MEET AGAIN: Leeds Chiefs' Steven Moore prepares to face off against Sheffield Steeldogs' Nathan Salem during last month's NIHL National encounter at Ice Sheffield. 'Picture: Chris Stratford

WE MEET AGAIN: Leeds Chiefs' Steven Moore prepares to face off against Sheffield Steeldogs' Nathan Salem during last month's NIHL National encounter at Ice Sheffield. 'Picture: Chris Stratford

Morgan’s opposite number Sam Zajac, who added former Steeldogs’ forward Liam Charnock to his roster two weeks ago, believes his team have made great strides since that season-opening encounter in South Yorkshire.

Like the Steeldogs, they too lost out narrowly last weekend, following up a 4-3 defeat at Swindon with a 5-4 loss in overtime at Hull Pirates.

“Morgs and Woody (Steeldogs’ assistant coach, Greg Wood) will have this one as a must-win game for them, particularly after those two losses at the weekend,” said Zajac. “They had a really good start to the season but the beauty of this league is that it is so tight and there is so much parity.

“They are not going to be expecting an easy game and they know that they will have to earn anything they get out of us . But, likewise, we need to make sure we out-work and out-perform them if we are to stand a chance of taking anything from the game.”

If you look at the results they have run a lot of teams very close, particularly in recent weeks, so their points tally does not reflect how well they are playing.

Sheffield Steeldogs’ coach, Ben Morgan