Bracknell Bees coach Doug Sheppard confident of pipping Leeds Chiefs to playoffs

BRACKNELL BEES coach Doug Sheppard says “anything is possible” in the three-way battle to make the NIHL National playoffs.

Saturday, 29th February 2020, 10:46 am
Updated Saturday, 29th February 2020, 11:30 am

The 43-year-old brings his team to Elland Road tonight for a clash with Leeds Chiefs which will have a major impact on their respective post-season hopes.

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Leeds Chiefs ready to play ‘desperate’ in crunch clash against Bracknell Bees

A win for Bracknell is likely to kill off any lingering hopes Leeds have of extending their campaign past March 22, given that they go into the fixture already 12 points adrift of eighth-placed Raiders IHC with 10 games remaining.

Two points would also give Bracknell a huge boost in their own battle to pip Raiders to that coveted eighth spot - the Romford side are two points better off going into this weekend - particularly with two encounters remaining between the southern-based rivals.

So far this season, Bracknell have bettered the Chiefs twice, including an 11-1 thrashing of Sam Zajac’s team in late December.

But Sheppard, whose team then lost to the Chiefs a week later in Blackburn, insists tonight’s hosts will prove a tough obstacle to overcome, particularly given they are still riding the wave of finally moving into their own rink in recent weeks.

“I wouldn’t say that the pressure was one way or the other,” said former Sheffield Steelers player-assistant coach Sheppard. “Leeds have been playing well recently. They’ve not had the easiest start to life in their first season with all the travelling they had to do, but their form has been solid lately, they’ve moved into their new building and it is exciting times for them.

Bracknell Bees had coach, Doug Sheppard. Picture courtesy of Kevin Slyfield.,

“Leeds are desperate for the playoffs and we’re a couple of points out ourselves so it is a big two points at stake for both teams.”

Sheppard, who helped facilitate the move of Chiefs’ forward Caly Robertson to West Yorkshire before the end-of-January trade deadline, said he remains confident his Bees team can be the ones to clinch the last remaining playoff spot.

“Leeds are in a tough spot because they’ve got to climb above us and London,” added Sheppard. “But Leeds have two more games left than us and London, as well as having a game in hand on us both - so anything can happen.

“But all of our focus is on our own play at the minute because we’re two points behind London and we’ve got them two more times.

Leeds Chiefs' player-coach Sam Zajac battles in vain to stop another Bracknell Bees goal in December's 11-1 defeat for his team in Berkshire. Picture courtesy of Kevin Slyfield

“Obviously this game with Leeds is big and I’m confident that we control our own fate but there are two good teams who probably feel the same way.

“There’s enough points left for Leeds and London is in a good spot, so it has come down to what we all wanted from this league when we started out which is good parity and races going on from top-to-bottom.”

Caly Robertson moved from Bracknell Bees to Leeds Chiefs at the end of January. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.