PREVIEW: Coach to seek re-inforcements as well as 23rd win in a row against Bracknell
Coach Slava Koulikov admits he may need to draft in reinforcements following a double Phantoms injury blow.
The city club lost influential import Darius Pliskauskas and hard-working frontman Will Weldon to injuries in their Boxing Day triumph at fierce rivals Milton Keynes.
Pliskauskas suffered a back injury in the opening session of the 3-2 success while Weldon was left in considerable pain after damaging a knee in the middle period.
Neither man played in a 5-0 home reverse at the hands of the same opponents the following night and Koulikov is nervously waiting to discover the full extent of two potentially serious injuries which have been sustained only days after two other players – defenceman Craig Wallis and forward Connor Glossop – were let go.
Koulikov admitted: “It’s been frustrating to have so many injury problems this season. We just can’t catch a break.
“We let a couple of guys leave just before Christmas and the plan was to review the roster during the run of five games that we’re currently in between Boxing Day and January 2.
“To now pick up two more injuries on Boxing Day has left us short of players and that is my biggest concern right now.
“We need to know the full extent of them and then deal with the situation accordingly.
“Darius and Will are both struggling to walk, and I don’t’ expect them to be playing anytime soon.
“It might be that they are both okay in 10 days’ time and there is nothing major, but it might also be more serious than that.
“We’re going into an important part of the season with the EPL Cup semi-finals coming up next month, and we need to ensure we have the strongest possible squad to give ourselves the best chance of winning a trophy.
“It may be a case of having to speak to my owners to see if we can bring someone in, but you never want to just add to a roster for the sake of it.”
The dates for that semi-final showdown against table-toppers Telford are still to be confirmed, but the games are expected to be pencilled in for the end of January.
Phantoms have plenty of league action to worry about before then, starting when they continue a hectic run by travelling to struggling Bracknell tonight (December 29) for their final outing of 2016.
A 23rd victory in succession should be achievable against the second-bottom Bees despite Phantoms’ injury concerns.
The city outfit then see in 2017 with two clashes against Sheffield Steeldogs in the space of 24 hours. The sides meet at Planet Ice on New Year’s Day (5.30pm) ahead of a January 2 return in Yorkshire.
Koulikov added: “We’ve beaten Telford and Milton Keynes in recent days, and we need to ensure we follow up those good results in the upcoming games.
“Bracknell are improving and they certainly won’t lie down. We’ll need to approach it in the right manner and that means sticking to a gameplan while having guys out.
“But we know we can get to third place in the table with a win and that would be a great position to be in at the end of the year.
“We’ve made a lot of progress through the season so far with the guys fully buying in to what we’re trying to do.”