Rob Marsden: Returning stars give Leeds Force hope for BBL Trophy

Jermaine Sanders is back for Leeds Force this weekend.

Jermaine Sanders is back for Leeds Force this weekend.

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First of all another message, I hope you all had a happy New Year and I wish you all a prosperous 2017.

We start off on a bit of a disappointing note, as Leeds Force ended 2016 with a 93-63 loss on Friday night.

Leeds Force welcome back their captain Armand Anebo

Leeds Force welcome back their captain Armand Anebo

It was always going to be a tall order beating the Leicester Riders on the road – a team that has only lost twice so far this season and once at home.

I thought in the first half we played well, we challenged them.

They didn’t have it all their own way and we were matching them.

We decided to use the transition from defence to attack quickly. We couldn’t let them settle and it was working early on.

Leeds Force fans enjoy the atmopshere at Carnegie Sports Arena.

Leeds Force fans enjoy the atmopshere at Carnegie Sports Arena.

They did overrun us in the end and we came away with the loss.

Some of us hung our heads afterwards but we have picked ourselves up and are ready to go in the BBL Trophy this Sunday (4pm) back at the Carnegie Sports Arena.

We host the Cheshire Phoenix, a team that beat us in the league so it’s a good chance to get our own back and go further in the tournament.

A good run in a cup competition would be really good for us as we went out in the first round narrowly to the Glasgow Rocks in the BBL Cup earlier in the season.

It would give us real confidence to have a good run in the league, I really think we can go deep in the BBL Trophy.

There are division one teams in there too so it’s a good mix. This is how Leeds got their first taste of the BBL back in 2014 with a BBL Trophy first-round tie against the Glasgow Rocks, so it’s a good competition to go deep in.

Don’t get me wrong we haven’t got it set in our minds it’s going to be easy against the Phoenix.

They are coming in off a big win at the weekend, defeating the Rocks 85-84 in Glasgow.

They beat us by 20 early in the season at our place so we need to be on our game to make sure we can go into the hat for the next round.

A big thing that will help us is coach Matt Newby finally has a full roster to choose from.

There are no more injuries in the squad.

We have always had players out from the start of the season which had held us back somewhat.

Armand (Anebo), the captain, has just returned. Jermaine (Sanders) missed the game in Sheffield with injury, and Jack (Isenbarger) missed a few games over the festive period.

Now we are all fit everyone can now play in their own positions, get the right minutes we need, get some plays going that play to everyone’s strength.

It has the feel of a new season and I expect us to really kick on now.

You haven’t seen the real Leeds Force of the 2016/17 season yet.

We have had the festive break over Christmas then some time after the Cheshire game before we’re back in league action – away at Surrey Scorchers on Saturday, January 21 – so it gives us plenty of time to work in training.

I am really excited to see what this team can go on and achieve and that starts with Cheshire on Sunday, so join us there.

#WeAreForce

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