Phantoms can build on a pleasing start says Slava
Phantoms coach Slava Koulikov believes his team have given themselves solid foundations on which to build a challenge for English Premier League success. The city club have won half of their opening six games of the newseason– nomeanfeat considering they faced backto- back weekends against reigning champions Basingstoke and title favourites Milton Keynes.
Two of the club’s three victories so far arrived against the Bison to follow up a 6-1 drubbing of Swindon in their first home outing.
Phantoms have lost home andawaytoarch-rivals Milton Keynes after also slipping up inlacklustrestyle ontheopening night of the campaign in Sheffield.
Koulikov said: “To reach the end of September with a 50 per cent win rate is pleasing.
“Wehaveprobably hadthe toughest start of any team in the league with top sides like Basingstoke and Milton Keynes in successive weekends.
“We want to win every game, but we know that is not realistic forusrightnow. However, we have competed well in five of our six games so far and the only disappointment for me is the performance on the opening night in Sheffield whenweshouldhavebattleda lot harder to get a result.
“We are still getting our identity as a team, and I hope and believe there is a lot more to come from my guys.”
Phantoms’ pleasing start hasliftedthemtofourthplace in the early-season standings, but things are not about to get any easier this weekend.
Koulikov’s men face two of the three teams currently above them as they travel to Hull onSaturday (5.30pm) before entertaining Telford on Sunday (5.30pm).
Both of those sides have wonfiveoftheirfirstsixclashes with the Pirates being surprise packages in just their second season, while Telford look strong contenders to win backthetitle they last lifted in 2014/15. Phantoms probably wish they could play reigning champions Basingstoke in every game.
Slava Koulikov’s men followed up a fine home triumph against Bison by claiming their scalp for the second time in six days courtesy of a down-to-the-wire success last Saturday night.
Marc Levers provided the decisive strike as Phantoms triumphed following a penalty shoot-out that went to sudden death with netminder Janis Auzins keeping out three of the four Basingstoke efforts he faced.
Phantoms had earlier seen a two- goal cushion wiped out in the final period, buttheystoodstrongtoclaim their first away point of the season at the end of regulation time.
And, following a blank overtime and a penalties success, it quickly becamean opening road win of 2016/17.
Incredibly the shoot-out was interrupted by a punchup as Phantoms giant Petr Stepanek traded blows with Bison man Ciaran Long.
Both players received game penalties for their parts in a skirmish triggered whenStepanekcollidedwith home netminder Tomas Hiadlovskyafterseeinghispenalty saved.
Darius Pliskauskas was also denied by Hiadlovsky after Ales Padelek had put away Phantoms’ first effort and it was a similar story at the other end where Janis Auzins denied Long and Ivan Antonov after being beaten by Petr Polodna.
Levers then struck with Phantoms’ f i rst suddendeath effort and that proved to be decisive as Auzins denied Aaron Connolly.
Stepanek’sscrapcompleted an action-packed night in which the Czech import also created two of the Phantoms goals and scored the other.
Ales Padelek celenbrates scoring against MK Lightning.