Leeds Knights: Telford Tigers boss Tom Watkins hoping to nullify hosts’ scoring threat

HEAD COACH Tom Watkins brings his in-form Telford Tigers to Elland Road tonight sitting second in the NIHL National standings – but he still hopes the best is yet to come from his players.

By Phil Harrison
Saturday, 11th December 2021, 7:03 am
Updated Saturday, 11th December 2021, 10:07 am
Telford Tigers' head coach, Tom Watkins. Picture courtesy of Steve Brodie.
Telford Tigers' head coach, Tom Watkins. Picture courtesy of Steve Brodie.

The admission should probably come as no surprise from a coach who guided the Tigers to the league and cup double in the inaugural 2019-20 NIHL National season before it was cut short by the pandemic.

Read More

Read More
Leeds Knights: Replenished Knights target timely confidence boost ahead of Autum...

The Tigers finished second in the behind-closed-doors Spring Cup won by Sheffield Steeldogs earlier this year and are regarded by many as having a realistic chance of retaining at least one of their titles.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

HELLO AGAIN: Centre Matty Davies helped Telford Tigers win the EPL league title back in 2016-17. Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints

They face-off against the Knights on the back of a three-game winning streak, one which they maintained the hard way last weekend with overtime wins against both leaders Swindon Wildcats and Milton Keynes Lightning.

And although Leeds are a team searching for some consistency – their line-up hit hard in recent weeks by injury issues – Watkins, who has Sam Watkins, Finley Howells and Jack Hopkins away on duty with GB under-20s, is under no illusions about the tough night that lies ahead for his players in West Yorkshire.

“I’m reasonably happy with where we are at,” said Watkins. “We’ve let a couple of games slip we shouldn’t have, but we’re still within touching distance and very much focussed on retaining our titles if possible.

“We’re happy-ish, but you can always strive for better and improved performances.”

FAMILIAR FACE: Defenceman Ross Kennedy played for Telford Tigers during the 2019-20 NIHL National season and is expected to be back in Leeds Knights line-up to face his former club today. Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints.

MORE – Captain Sam Zajac to miss Autumn Cup Final but backs Knights to bring home silverware

It was Leeds who drew first blood this season, winning 5-2 in an explosive start to their Autumn Cup group campaign, but it is Telford who have held the upper-hand since, winning both games in a double-header weekend between the two in early November.

Watkins has first-hand experience of the quality in the Knights line-up, with Matty Davies, Sam Gospel, Sam Zajac, Brandon Whistle, Ross Kennedy and Kieran Brown all having played under him in recent years.

“We know a lot about them individually and how they work together as a team when we have faced them – they have got a lot of offensive punch,” added Watkins. “You know it is never going to be easy against Leeds – they will be very competitive, very skilled and talented and are a team that can seemingly score willingly at times.”

Full Government Covid guidance and rules on wearing face coverings at indoor sports stadia and other venues can be found HERE