Phantoms have to tighten up at the back to stop a Bison stampede in Easter showdown

Play-off semi-final action featuring Phantoms and Swindon.
Play-off semi-final action featuring Phantoms and Swindon.
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Player-coach Tom Norton admits Phantoms must tighten up defensively to stand a chance of trophy success.

The city team take on Basingstoke in the final of the NIHL Division One South play-offs this weekend.

They entertain the Bison – who pipped them to the league title on goal difference – at Planet Ice on Saturday (7pm) ahead of an Easter Sunday return clash in Hampshire (5.30pm).

“We’re really going to have to pull together as a unit,” said Norton.

“Basingstoke have a very tough defence. They don’t concede many goals and we’re going to have to work hard to break them down – especially if we have big players missing.

“We need to be stingey ourselves as well and ensure that we shut down their dangerous players.

“We’ve let in a few more goals than we would have liked lately. It’s not through lack of effort, that’s for sure.

“We’ve made a few little individual errors and had a few bounces go against us, but it’s nothing that we can’t tidy up this week before trying to shut the door for the next two weekends.

“We’ve worked hard for a whole season to try to have success. Three trophies haven’t gone our way, but there are still two to go at and we’ll do all we can to win silverware.

“Basingstoke is a tough place to go so the first thing we have to ensure is that we do the job in the first leg and we going there in a good position.”

Norton described Phantoms’ passage into the play-off final – and the subsequent NIHL Final Four weekend in Coventry – as ‘surreal’.

The city team lost both legs of their semi-final clash against Swindon last weekend, but advanced due to an admin error from the Wildcats.

They included ineligible player Josh Kelly in their roster for a 4-2 success in Wiltshire last Saturday night. That game was then awarded as a 5-0 victory to Phantoms only a couple of hours before Sunday’s second leg.

Swindon triumphed 6-4 at Planet Ice, but Phantoms prevailed 9-6 on aggregate.

Norton added: “We arrived at the rink on Sunday expecting to have a two-goal deficit to overturn so it was a big change mentally to be told we were 5-0 up. We still wanted to put in a strong performance and while the game didn’t go the way we wanted in the end, the main thing is that we are through to the final.

“It’s a bit of a surreal experience to go through after losing both legs, but we’re obviously very happy to have made it through and it’s great to be going back to Coventry again for the Final Four.

“We were stung by the league in the National Cup so it’s nice to have something go our way. It’s a very tough way for Swindon to go out, but we’ve been there and know how it feels.”