Peterborough Phantoms head coach Slava Koulikov admitted his side threw away the chance to take command of the NIHL Division One South title race last night (February 3).
The city team were beaten 4-3 by closest challengers Basingstoke Bison and saw their lead at the summit cut to two points in the process.
Phantoms failed to hold onto 2-0 and 3-2 leads before eventually being condemned to defeat in a hard-fought clash in Hampshire - and Koulikov was unhappy with the manner of the goals leaked by his men.
“I said beforehand that we wouldn’t lose the title by losing this game,” stated Koulikov. “However, we knew that a win would put us in a great position and give us an extra lifeline for the rest of the season.
“Going to Basingstoke, playing well and being the better team was a real positive for me, but coming away with nothing due to very sloppy individual errors is a real disappointment.
“We had to work hard for our goals, but there is no doubt we gifted Basingstoke all four of their goals. We gave the game away, but everything remains in our hands.
“There are three teams – ourselves, Basingstoke and Swindon - fighting to be champions, but we know that if we win all of our remaining games we will win the title.
“That is our challenge and that is what we now need to focus on doing.”
More than half of the contest had passed before Phantoms seized the initiative with two goals in three minutes.
Nathan Salem made the breakthrough when firing through the legs of Bison netminder Dean Skinns before Ales Padelek quickly doubled the advantage by bundling in a rebound, but their cushion was wiped out by a sharp Basingstoke response early in the final period.
Dan Scott struck for the hosts on a powerplay before Grant Rounding pulled them level after a giveaway, but Phantoms were soon back ahead as Owen Griffiths found the twine following a slick passing sequence during a numerical advantage of their own.
Only a stunning Skinns glove save denied James White a fourth Phantoms goal before Bison replied with another quick – and ultimately decisive – flurry.
Joshua Smith pounced on a spilled shot to equalise and it was was followed a shade over three minutes later by a Dan Davies winner as he was left unattended to beat netminder Euan King at the second attempt - and Phantoms were unable to reply during a frantic finish.
They return to action next weekend when a Saturday (February 11) home clash against Bracknell is followed by a trip to Streatham the following night (February 12).
41:54 Scott (PP) ass: Malinik/Smith
44:46 Rounding ass: Sutton
53:07 Smith ass: Karpov/Connolly
56:10 Davies ass: Karpov
33:23 Salem ass: Jamieson/Billing
35:59 Padelek ass: Griffiths/Norton
46:33 Griffiths (PP) ass: Padelek/Weldon
Basingstoke – Dan Davies
Phantoms – Ales Padelek