Leeds Knights coach Dave Whistle happy for players to get their Autumn Cup final reward

DAVE WHISTLE says reaching the Autumn Cup final is just rewards for his Leeds Knights players after battling through adversity in recent weeks.

By Phil Harrison
Saturday, 13th November 2021, 10:03 am
Updated Saturday, 13th November 2021, 10:07 am

Leading 3-1 from the first leg, the Knights sealed progression to a two-legged showdown with either Swindon Wildcats or Telford Tigers by closing out their semi-final derby against Sheffield Steeldogs with a 6-5 win on home ice.

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The 9-6 aggregate victory shows the Knights were deserved winners overall, but the second leg was a game which could easily have gone either way, particularly after Greg Wood’s team made it a one-goal game with just under three minutes remaining.

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Harry Gulliver celebrates scoring his first and Leeds Knights' third goal against Sheffield Steeldogs in Friday's Autumn Cup semi-final, second leg at Elland Road Picture: Bruce Rollinson

But goals from Harry Gulliver and Kieran Brown within eight frantic seconds of each other inside the final minute ensured it would be Leeds who would progress at the expense of their Yorkshire rivals.

Having gone into the two-legged tie on the back of a five-game losing streak, Whistle was keen to praise the determination of his players of overcoming the odds.

“It was a tough game, but it was a good game I felt, right from start to finish, a good game to watch, a good game to be a part of,” said Knights’ coach Whistle. “Sheffield really poured it on and at times they were really taking it to us a little bit and it was probably a good job we had a couple-goal lead from that first leg.

“When you’ve been losing three weekends in a row and you don’t get a win out of any of those weekends, you get to feeling down on yourself a little bit, you’re down on each other and, you know what, it was a great, gritty performance from every single one of those players on our team.

Leeds Knights' players battle in front of their own net as netminder Jordan McLaughlin looks on during last night's Autumn Cup semi-final second leg against Sheffield Steeldogs Picture: Bruce Rollinson

“I think at times they were the better team, we were hanging on at times, but we got lucky breaks at the right time. We got the right save at the right time, we scored goals at the right time. We got secondary scoring today and on Wednesday and that hasn’t happened in pretty much the last month, for the most part.

“So I’m very happy for the guys, they deserved it. They are still working hard all the time and, for them, they need some kind of reward and, tonight, the reward for them is to go to the final.”