Tigers fired up for Flames visit

Tigers head coach Tom Watkins has claimed his side can compete with any other team in the league, as he prepares for Sunday’s clash with Guildford Flames.

Telford’s EPL title defence has taken a turn for the better over recent weeks, with five successive wins lifting them to the verge of fifth place in the standings.

That run was broken by last Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Manchester Phoenix, as they crashed out of the EPL cup at the round-robin stages – just months after winning the competition.

But Watkins expects his side to continue building the momentum of that winning streak – and take advantage of their superiority over most teams.

He said: “I know people think we stood still in the summer, but that is something I totally disagree with. Guys like Phil Hill are a massive improvement on what we had before.

“Joe Graham has been unfortunate with his injury, but the other teams just tend to recycle players. That doesn’t mean those guys aren’t as good, but I haven’t seen any team that I think we can’t compete against.

“I went through our games with Barry Hollyhead a few nights ago and we’ve only been outplayed twice this season. That doesn’t always make a result, and we’ve had plenty of chances to win games.

“It comes down to taking those opportunities and if you do that, then it is a very different picture.”

Telford’s last encounter with Guildford ended in a narrow 2-1 defeat in Surrey, as the Flames survived a Tigers barrage in front of goal.

Watkins, who welcomed back GB defenceman Jonathan Weaver last weekend, is expecting a similar game in Shropshire on Sunday.

He added: “Guildford are one of the top teams in the league and to be truthful, it was probably a fifty-fifty game last time. They started very well and we got ourselves back into it later on.

“I don’t expect anything different at all. Even the games between us last season were very close and they’re a quality team, who are capable of winning.

“Guildford had a great win over Basingstoke last weekend, so at this level it is a case of who turns up on the day. Our special teams will be very important on Sunday.”

The Flames are, in fact, a side that Telford will be aiming to overcome in the league standings over coming weeks, with the top four closely bunched together in terms of points.

“I think every game has a huge emphasis, as we’re all playing for the same prize, in terms of points,” Watkins said.

“We want to keep knocking down our competitors around us, but we need to keep focusing on what we do. We’re good in some areas, and there’s other areas where we need to be better.

“We spoke about that a lot with the players during the week and identified some key areas that I feel were hurting us. The execution of those things is absolutely huge for us.”

Sunday’s game at Telford Ice Rink, against Guildford Flames, faces off at 6pm. For tickets, go to www.tigershockeyuk.com.

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