Phantoms players told to keep up the good work

Tom Norton gets stuck in for Phantoms against Swindon. Picture: Alan Storer
Tom Norton gets stuck in for Phantoms against Swindon. Picture: Alan Storer
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Phantoms player-coach Slava Koulikov has warned his players not to let their standards slip in the second half of the English Premier League season.

The city team have exceeded expectations to climb into second spot in the standings. They are enjoying their best campaign since the historic honours treble of 2008/09.

Phantoms have played anything between three and seven more games than their rivals though and could find their lofty position at risk in the remainder of the campaign.

But Koulikov is upbeat about their prospects of remaining in the upper echelons of an ultra-competitive division.

He said: “The guys have fought for every point so far this season and shown they can compete with every team in the league.

“While we have played more games than all other teams, we have to be happy with where we are at.

“We have set the bar highwith what we have done in the first few months of the season and now the job is to continue it.

“Any team can beat any other on any given day so we have to be switched on every time we take to the ice if we want to stay in the top three.”

There was an example of that at Planet Ice last Sunday when Phantoms slipped to a second successive home defeat at the hands of a fast-improving Swindon side.

It was a frustrating defeat which followed a fine victory at play-off holders Basingstoke the previous night.

Koulikov added: “It was a weekend in which we would probably have settled for a 50 per cent return in advance, but having picked up such a good result in a very tough game in Basingstoke it was disappointing not to follow up with another win at home.

“The guys were mentally ready, but the style of hockey that Swindon play was very effective. They are one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the league and are in very good form at the moment.

“It is never nice to lose a hockey game and there are a few things we need to correct, but we are not going to dwell on this defeat for too long.”

Phantoms take a break from EPL action this weekend to play the first of six dead games in the English Challenge Cup competition.

The city side, who have no hope of progressing from the North Group, entertain Blackburn Hawks at Planet Ice on Sunday (5.30pm).

They are only permitted to ice two of their four imports while forward Luke Ferrara will be allowed to play for his Elite League side, Sheffield.

Koulikov plans to hand opportunities to young players from the Peterborough Islanders and Phantoms Under 18 sides.