PREVIEW: Slava says a repeat performance won't be easy
They've done it before, but Phantoms coach Slava Koulikov admits doing it again will be far from easy.
Phantoms face a trip to reigning English Premier League champions Basingstoke tomorrow (October 15) and a Sunday clash at home to Swindon (October 16, 5.30pm) this weekend.
They are a pair of fixtures they have already tasted success in this season, but Koulikov knows only too well that following up won’t be easy as his men attempt to halt a sudden slide down the standings.
“A couple of weeks ago we were fourth, now we’re eighth. Does it really matter at this stage? No,” said Koulikov.
“But what is important is ensuring we consistently pick up results and we had done that by winning one game every weekend until the last one.
“We had both games against Swindon and Sheffield in our grasp, but let them both slip and we’ll correct the things that were behind that.
“We’ve won in Basingstoke on penalties already this season, but it is always one of the toughest encounters of the season and they are now in better form than they were when we last faced them.
“We also beat Swindon very well at home in the opening weekend of the season, but that was a month ago and they are now the team to beat in the league.
“They won five games in a row – which included beating us last weekend – and then took the league leaders Telford to overtime.
“I say if often, but it remains the case – there is no easy game let alone an easy weekend in this league.
“We have to work hard for 60 minutes on both nights and if we can get a couple of positive results, I’ll be very happy.”
Koulikov won’t take any risks with the fitness of netminder Janis Auzins.
The magnificent Latvian shot-stopper has missed the club’s last four games due to a knee problem.
Club chiefs are hoping to arrange for Auzins to undergo an MRI scan as they bid to learn the full extent of the damage.
He added: “The season lasts for 54 games over six months so I’m not going to rush any player back out there.
“We need to make sure we get to the bottom of Janis’ injury and deal with it properly.
“Hopefully he won’t be too long, but I know from personal experience during my career that continuing to play while having a problem only makes things worse.
“We also saw it when Kamil Jarina was our netminder a few years ago. We played him before he was ready and it ended his season.”
Auzins is not the only man currently on Phantoms’ casualty list.
They lost forwards Sam Towner and Connor Glossop to injuries during a 5-3 defeat at Swindon last Saturday night.
Towner was left concussed after being on the receiving end of a blind hit in the opening period in Wiltshire, while Glossop picked up an upper-body injury later in the game.
Both men sat out the following night’s 5-4 reverse at the hands of Sheffield and their fitness will be monitored ahead of this weekend.