Crunch trip as Phantoms take on main title rivals

Robbie Ferrara should be back for the weekend.
Robbie Ferrara should be back for the weekend.
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The best two teams are set to do battle in the biggest game of the NIHL Division One South season on Saturday night.

Table-topping Phantoms travel to closest challengers Basingstoke for a crunch clash in the race for honours (6.30pm).

The city side head to Hampshire with a four-point cushion at the summit, but their hosts lie in wait with two matches in hand.

And head coach Slava Koulikov is quick to admit the contest will have a significant effect on the campaign.

His side could potentially pull six points clear with only eight games to go.

He said: “It is a huge game for both teams. It’s definitely going to be high-speed and high-energy.

“We won’t lose the league title if we lose there, but a win in Basingstoke could be a huge step towards winning it.

“We go into the game with four wins in a row and that run of results has been good for morale.

“We’ve got through the last couple of weekends very professionally. I was particularly pleased with how we performed in Cardiff last Sunday night.

“We know that Basingstoke are a very strong team who play an aggressive style at home and they are very good at that.

“But we’re top of the league table, we’re the highest scorers and we’re well on track to reach my target of conceding less than three goals per game.”

Phantoms triumphed 2-1 in their previous visit to Basingstoke during the festive period, but the Bison responded with a 4-3 success in the return clash at Planet Ice on New Year’s Day.

Defenceman Robbie Ferrara is expected to return for Phantoms after sitting out last weekend with a minor injury.

Phantoms will now complete their league fixtures with three successive home games.

The postponed clash against London Raiders in December has been rescheduled for Saturday, March 3.

A home game against title rivals Basingstoke was previously scheduled for that date, but has now been pushed back to Sunday, March 4.

Club chiefs are working on a special admission deal of £20 for both of those potentially crucial games.

Phantoms’ final league outing is against Streatham at Planet Ice on Saturday, March 10.