Leeds Knights – Tough test awaits as Knights look to close gap on Telford Tigers

LEEDS KNIGHTS’ coach Dave Whistle takes his team to Telford Tigers tonight knowing they will face one of their toughest tests of the season.

By Phil Harrison
Monday, 27th December 2021, 6:35 am
TOUGH TEST: Leeds Knights' head coach, Dave Whistle  Picture: James Hardisty
TOUGH TEST: Leeds Knights' head coach, Dave Whistle Picture: James Hardisty

The Tigers sit second in the NIHL National standings, six points adrift of Swindon Wildcats, who suffered a surprise 4-2 defeat at home to Basingstoke Bison yesterday.

Telford may benefit over Leeds having had extra rest time, last being in action last Wednesday when easing to a 6-2 win at home to a severely depleted Sheffield Steeldogs.

The Knights lost out in the second leg of the Autumn Cup Final the following night at home to Swindon before enjoying their own victory over the Steeldogs at home yesterday, prevailing against rivals again hit by Covid and injury issues. The 7-4 derby victory sees Leeds in fifth spot in the standings, four points behind Telford but having played two games more.

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“Telford are one of those teams that, if you are wanting to achieve anything in this league, you are probably going to have to get the better of them in the head-to-head series,” said Whistle.

“Them and Swindon right now are the two best teams, I feel. It’s always hard to beat Telford and always hard to beat Swindon - both play the right way and both have a lot of experience on their bench, they play smart all the time.

“But I know for a fact that everybody in our room is going to Telford determined to beat them because they are one of the top teams. I like playing good teams, the players like playing good teams.”

So far this season, the Knights and Telford have played each other four times, the honours being even with two wins apiece.

Ben Solder may return for Leeds Knights to face Telford Tigers. Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints

Leeds struck first in the group stage of the Autumn Cup when they prevailed 5-2 on home ice against Tom Watkins’s side, who gained revenge with back-to-back league wins in early November.

That was when Whistle’s team were in the midst of a long-running injury crisis, their numbers bolstered in time for when the two teams met just over two weeks ago at Elland Road, when Leeds enjoyed a convincing 6-3 win.

Whistle is waiting to see if he can have Manchester Storm two-way duo Ben Solder and Harry Gulliver for the trip to Shropshire, while entre Joe Coulter may also return after missing the last two games. Sam Zajac missed the Boxing Day derby with Sheffield but may feature against his former club, where he won the English Premier League title alongside fellow Knights Matty Davies and Sam Gospel back in 2016-17.