Leeds Knights v Hull Seahawks - How semi-final heartache prompted Knights rethink

THERE can be no greater tribute to Hull Seahawks this season than the fact their stunning National Cup semi-final win over Leeds Knights made their Yorkshire rivals take a long, hard look at themselves.

Going into the two-legged tie, Knights’ head coach Ryan Aldridge had been regularly voicing his frustrations over his team’s performances in his post-match interviews.

Read More
Leeds Knights v Hull Seahawks - Matt Barron focussing on latest Seahawks test no...

They were still getting the results, still the team that everybody else had to catch, but something wasn’t quite right.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
FAMILIAR FACES: Leeds Knights' Noah McMullin battles with Hull Seahawks' Declan Balmer during the second leg of the NIHL National Cup semi-final at Leeds. Picture: Bruce RollinsonFAMILIAR FACES: Leeds Knights' Noah McMullin battles with Hull Seahawks' Declan Balmer during the second leg of the NIHL National Cup semi-final at Leeds. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
FAMILIAR FACES: Leeds Knights' Noah McMullin battles with Hull Seahawks' Declan Balmer during the second leg of the NIHL National Cup semi-final at Leeds. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

That was certainly the case in the two games against the Seahawks, who ran out comfortable and deserved 9-4 winners across two games.

The Knights were able to bounce back quickly the following night with a 4-1 win in the league against the Raiders.

But it was later that week that Aldridge introduced changes to his team’s defensive game that seem to have brought about the desired results.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
REJIG: Leeds Knights' head coach, Ryan Aldridge. Picture: Bruce RollinsonREJIG: Leeds Knights' head coach, Ryan Aldridge. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
REJIG: Leeds Knights' head coach, Ryan Aldridge. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

The first game in which they had to put those changes into practice resulted in a gritty 5-4 win in overtime at Raiders.

The following night brought a 1-0 defeat at Swindon Wildcats but only glowing comments from Aldridge for his players, who he felt deserved something from the game.

Sunday brought a 6-0 win at home to Telford Tigers, while the following weekend saw the Knights put Peterborough Phantoms to the sword not once, but twice, following up a 7-2 win at home with a 7-0 humbling of their Cambridgeshire rivals on the road 24 hours later.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
RIVAL: Hull Seahawks' head coach Matty Davies. Picture: Bruce RollinsonRIVAL: Hull Seahawks' head coach Matty Davies. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
RIVAL: Hull Seahawks' head coach Matty Davies. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Something has certainly clicked and while Aldridge and his players go into Thursday night’s rearranged clash with the Seahawks at Elland Road aware of the threat from their derby rivals, they do so full of confidence again.

“I think in the Cup games we were in a lull. You’ve got to have a lull at some point and we hadn’t had one in 18 months until that week,” said Aldridge. “I think and I hope we’re through that now.

“The last three or four games, the boys have been brilliant. Having Wit (import forward, Jake Witkowski) back in the line-up has really added something to us again and we’re back to our way of playing.

“I’ll admit that in those Cup games we weren’t great, Hull were very good and deserved to win.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“We’ve changed a few things since, we’ve changed to being tighter in those areas that I think cost us in those two games.”

Defence has certainly been key for Leeds this season. They are far and away the tightest team when it comes to conceding goals, with just 89 goals getting past them in 40 games, at an average of 2.22 per game.

“Our team defence has been good all year, " said Aldridge. “As soon as we’re on the wrong side of the puck, we are good - the boys are buying into that a lot more this year and we have to be because our goalscoring isn’t as strong as it was last year.

“We have had to find a different way to win and I think in the Cup games our D-zone was sloppy and so we changed a few things and that seems to be working.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It’s just the energy in the room, the energy on the bench, the effort levels - it just feels like us again. It felt like that during the Swindon game and I told them to get their heads up afterwards because I thought they were brilliant.

“They deserved more out of that game and they have been as good as they were that night ever since. We’ve got to try and be like that now until the end of the year.”