Watkins proud of side in EPL Cup loss

Tom Watkins told of his pride in the Telford Tigers squad, after watching them fall to a narrow 4-2 defeat against Peterborough Phantoms in the EPL Cup semi-final first leg.

Wednesday night’s result means Telford must win Sunday’s return leg in Shropshire, to stand any chance of progressing to the final.

The winners of that game will play Milton Keynes Lightning for the trophy over two legs next month.

Watkins, who has seen his side threatened with expulsion from the EPL play-offs after financial problems earlier in the season, remains proud of their efforts in the first leg.

He said: “It has been a tough few days, but I am pleased with the way the players approached the game.

“It’s something they just have to put out of their heads in the dressing room. Hopefully, it will make us hungrier for success.

“But we are still a first-placed hockey team and we get another chance to play in this competition. It’s all to play for on Sunday.

“We have got good strength of character, a good group.”

The opening exchanges of the first period in Peterborough saw neither side take control, albeit with Tigers’ Jon Baston the busier of the two netminders.

Telford’s first meaningful opportunity came at the halfway point of the period, as long-range shots Sam Zajac and Doug Clarkson forced Janis Auzins into a double save.

But it was Peterborough who opened the scoring on 13 minutes, thanks to a tip-in from close range by Darius Pliskauskas.

The game burst into life during the second period, however, when Rick Plant scored Telford’s first goal the night.

Plant took advantage of a goalmouth scramble to slot home from close range.

And The Tigers took the lead just two minutes later, courtesy of Milan Kolena, who scored with a first-time shot through a crowded Peterborough goalmouth.

But the Phantoms equalised on 36 minutes, with Telford still recovering from a five-on-three shorthanded play.

Peterborough were the stronger side at the start of the third period, and were rewarded with their third goal of the night on 47 minutes, again courtesy of Pliskauskas.

And they rounded off the scoring with an empty net goal on the stroke of full time.

Watkins added: “We did a huge job of killing that five on three in the second period, then they shot one and it came off the crossbar, but we couldn’t locate it.

“The puck landed on the stick of the guy on the back door, but if they hadn’t scored that, it would have been a different game.

“The guys came off deflated after the second period, but we still won it 2-1. That is something we tried to re-iterate to them.

“I think in the third period Peterborough had more of the puck in our end zone and we struggled to establish ourselves.

“We had some good opportunities in the final five minutes of that period, but Peterborough were stronger before that.”

Telford Tigers are back in action this weekend with two home games. On Saturday night, they play Sheffield Steeldogs in the English Premier League, before Sunday’s semi-final second leg against Peterborough.

Both games start at 6pm.

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