Leeds Knights coach Ryan Aldridge backs players to overturn huge National Cup final deficit against Peterborough Phantoms

MAKE no mistake, Ryan Aldridge is under no illusions as to the size of the task in front of his Leeds Knights team in tonight’s second leg of the National Cup final.

But if there is one team who are capable of overturning the 6-0 deficit they face against Peterborough Phantoms, Aldridge backs his player.

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Of course, since that forgettable night in Peterborough last Friday, the Knights have clinched the most prized possession in the shape of the NIHL National league title.

LEADING MAN: Ryan Aldridge says his Leeds Knights players have been 'dialled in' from the start of the 2022-23 NIHL National campaign. Picture courtesy of Oliver PortamentoLEADING MAN: Ryan Aldridge says his Leeds Knights players have been 'dialled in' from the start of the 2022-23 NIHL National campaign. Picture courtesy of Oliver Portamento
LEADING MAN: Ryan Aldridge says his Leeds Knights players have been 'dialled in' from the start of the 2022-23 NIHL National campaign. Picture courtesy of Oliver Portamento
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Having done that with four games to spare, Aldridge believes the shackles are now off in some respects, leaving his team better-placed to try and pull off what many people believe ahead of tonight’s showdown at Elland Road Ice Arena, to be an impossible task.

“Yeah, absolutely,” replied Aldridge when asked if he felt the final was still winnable from such a dire position. “It’s a tall order, of course but, with the team that we’ve got, if there is a team in the league that can do this, it is ours.”

Aldridge acknowledges the 2022-23 league campaign has been a long, hard slog, but has always believed his players were capable of pulling off something special. Now he wants them to add to their trophy haul, if not on Friday night then there is always the play-offs.

THAT WINNING FEELING: Leeds Knights' players celebrate winning the NIHL National league title after their victory over defending champions Telford Tigers on Sunday. Picture courtesy of Leeds Knights.THAT WINNING FEELING: Leeds Knights' players celebrate winning the NIHL National league title after their victory over defending champions Telford Tigers on Sunday. Picture courtesy of Leeds Knights.
THAT WINNING FEELING: Leeds Knights' players celebrate winning the NIHL National league title after their victory over defending champions Telford Tigers on Sunday. Picture courtesy of Leeds Knights.
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Starting off so far behind the Phantoms, it’s clear that the Knights need to get off to a flying start on Friday. But they should take confidence from the fact that it is only three weeks since they put nine goals past Peterborough in a stunning road win.

The visitors will have that fresh in their minds too.

“The boys have been dialled in since the start,” added Aldridge. “It’s been a long year, a hard year with those two teams chasing us the way that they have, but this group has been outstanding and it’s been a special year so far

“I know it’s often said that it’s tough at the top but it is. It’s been tough at the top because we haven’t been able to take a night off all year. It’s been hard, it’s been a grind but we’ve obviously got something special out of it.

“Winning the league last weekend was massive for us because now – if we weren’t playing great in the first 10 minutes on Friday, I’d probably just have let Peterborough have it – but now, having won the league, we’re going to be going at it for 60 minutes.

“I believe it’s going to be a great game of hockey. We know it’s a tough ask – but if there’s one group of players in this league that can do it, it’s ours.”