No time to take our foot off the gas says Koulikov

Ales Padelek fires the puck home to take the score to 7-1 against Manchester. Pucture: Tom Scott

Ales Padelek fires the puck home to take the score to 7-1 against Manchester. Pucture: Tom Scott

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Phantoms coach Slava Koulikov has warned his players they cannot afford to relax despite a lighter workload.

The city team only have one English Premier League fixture in each of the next two weekends.

They entertain lowly Bracknell in both of them with the Bees making their first visit of the season to Planet Ice this Sunday (5.30pm).

Phantoms have already beaten Lukas Smital’s side twice in Berkshire this season to extend an incredible record against these opponents to 20 successive victories.

But Koulikov is adamant nothing can be taken for granted in the upcoming clashers.

He said: “We know that Bracknell are a hard-working team and we will have to perform for the full 60 minutes.

“We have a run of five games in a week just after Christmas so perhaps this is a good time to have a little less hockey.

“Only having one game in a weekend has been a bit of a struggle for us in the last couple of years, but fingers crossed we can get it right this time.

“I think players get into a routine of playing two games in a weekend for a whole season so they are not used to having the Saturday off.

“In theory that should make it easier physically to only have a Sunday game, but perhaps it makes it harder mentally.

“But we know the importance of continuing to pick up results at home and the guys are well aware of the level of performance required to do that.”

Phantoms are in the somewhat uncomfortable position of having to rely on a favour from fierce rivals Milton Keynes if they are to reach the EPL Cup semi-finals.

The city side’s hopes of reaching the latter stages rest on the result of a clash between Lightning and Basingstoke tomorrow (Friday).

Basingstoke currently occupy fourth spot in the cup standings and any sort of positive result in Buckinghamshire would put them out of Phantoms’ reach.

But, if Milton Keynes win that game, and Phantoms then beat Bracknell on Sunday, it is Koulikov’s side who will advance to the semi-finals.

He added: “We’ll know by the time Sunday comes whether or not we can progress in the cup, but the main thing is making sure we pick up two points against Bracknell.