Video - Milton Keynes Lightning v Leeds Chiefs - Sam Zajac looking for Chiefs to secure first maximum return

WE MAY be less than a fifth of the way through the season but Leeds Chiefs’ player-coach Sam Zajac already sees Sunday’s trip to Milton Keynes Lightning as a ‘four-pointer’.

Sunday, 27th October 2019, 6:45 am
Updated Sunday, 27th October 2019, 11:41 am
COME AGAIN: Leeds Chiefs' Luke Boothroyd in action during the last visit to Milton Keynes, which ended in an 8-4 defeat. Picture courtesy of Tony Sargent.

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Video - Milton Keynes Lightning v Leeds Chiefs - Sam Zajac looking for Chiefs to...

Their one previous visit to Buckinghamshire ended in an 8-4 defeat for Zajac’s team, their efforts undone by a mini-collapse in the final 10 minutes which saw them ship four goals and lose goaltender Sam Gospel on a match penalty, a call which was later reduced to a two-minute minor for roughing.

James Archer and Radek Meidl celebrate Adam Barnes's (hidden) second goal of the game against Sheffield Steeldogs. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

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He subsequently got the response he was looking for and while the Chiefs have found wins hard to come by so far this season – their first came at the sixth attempt in a 4-0 win at Raiders IHC – the newcomers are proving a match for their longer-established rivals, as evidenced further in Ice Sheffield on Friday.

"The boys can’t wait to get into MK now," said Zajac after Friday night's win. "All we’re thinking about is starting to move up that table. We had a slow start, there were a lot of excuses being thrown around but they are not there anymore.

"We’ve had some time to gel, we’ve got a group together who we feel are going to be very competitive and so it was fantastic delighted to get the win against Steeldogs.

"On Wednesday night, we spoke after practise about this being the first weekend where if we don’t get two, maybe four points then we would genuinely be upset that we didn’t do that.

MAXIMUM HAUL: Leeds Chiefs' player-coach is looking for his team to pick up four points this weekend. Picture: Chris Stratford.

"So, we’ve got the first two and it is on us to now turn up on Sunday at MK and get the other two."

Zajac is aware his team needs to start pressuring the teams above them and chip away each weekend at the advantage others currently hold over them.

“Milton Keynes and Raiders are the two closest teams to us and it is effectively a four-pointer on Sunday,” said Zajac.

“It means we can claw that gap back on them and we can maybe start climbing the table which is what we want to be doing – moving up and not looking in on the play-off positions from the outside.

“We feel like we are a good enough team that we should be in that position, too. Milton Keynes have had some well-documented struggles too and have maybe found it a little more difficult than they anticipated.”

The Lightning have recently strengthened their ranks, first bringing in former GB international winger Liam Stewart before adding experienced forward Tom Carlon earlier this week.

Zajac sees similarities between the two teams.

He said: “They are a good team with some very talented players. They have just added an experienced guy in Tom Carlon, who is going to be a big help. They have maybe been in a similar position to us where a lack of numbers has probably played its part towards the end of some games.

“But we have a great chance of getting the win, as long as we play to our full potential.”