Lightning still on course for Cup final as Poole promises return to form

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LIGHTNING still have all to play for in the English Premier League Cup, despite going down 1-0 to Sheffield Steeldogs in the first leg of their semi-final on Wednesday night.

But while Lightning need to claw back just a single goal at Planet Ice when the two sides meet for the second leg next Thursday, there are bigger issues at hand for Nick Poole’s men.

That defeat to Steeldogs was Lightning’s seventh in eight games – a dip in form that has seen them slip down the EPL table to fifth place and now all but out of contention for the league title.

The EPL Cup will offer some consolation though – a trophy Lightning will be keen to get their hands on this season, having twice made the final in the past, only to lose out on both occasions.

And they have a great chance to bounce back to winning ways this weekend, taking on eighth placed Bracknell Bees at home on Saturday night before visiting mid-table rivals Basingtoke Bison on Sunday as they look to stop the rot.

Then comes that all important EPL Cup semi-final second leg against Sheffield, with Lightning needing to overturn that one-goal deficit to reach the final. And Poole has promised fans a return to form after seeing his side beaten in their last three home games.

“We know it’s now a huge game on Saturday against the Bees,” said player-coach Poole. “We’ll be looking to get a win. I can guarantee we’ll be giving our all to make sure we get two points to start moving back up the table again.

“We will grit our teeth and get through this. The guys will work through this blip and come back stronger, and we’ll be back to winning ways sooner rather than later. There’s a lot of hockey to play between now and the end of the season.”

Lightning’s last two defeats in the league came in last weekend’s double-header against Manchester Phoenix and Guildford Flames – the two sides currently battling it out at the top of the pile. Lightning were in their fighting with them just a couple of weeks ago, before defeat to Flames sparked their terrible run.

Poole said: “On Saturday we just couldn’t get the puck in the net, we had so many unlucky bounces in front of the Manchester net and just couldn’t get sticks onto them. The guys gave 100 per cent and battled until the end but unfortunately it just didn’t quite work out for us.

“On Sunday we worked hard again and gave our all, but ultimately came up short of a very good Guildford team. We scored two goals which demonstrated how hard work and persistence do pay off, particularly so with Adam Carr’s goal.

“On another night we could have converted a few more chances, but when you are struggling sometimes these things seem to work against you.”