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Tom Watkins: Telford Tigers 'fell short' of own expectations after play-off heartbreak

Head coach Tom Watkins admitted Telford Tigers had fallen short of their own expectations after suffering more play-off heartbreak.

Tom Watkins
Tom Watkins

Despite a superb season which saw them crowned National League champions, the Tigers once again fell short at the end of the campaign as they were beaten 3-1 by Sheffield Steeldogs in Saturday’s semi-final.

It meant their search for a first ever play-off championship will go on for another 12 months and Watkins said: “It is disappointing for us, after such a strong league season.

“It was a very good league season for us but again, we fall short from our own expectations at the Final Four.”

Tigers went into the weekend as top seeds after winning their play-off group and having suffered only one defeat in their previous 12 matches.

Perhaps unsurprisingly they were on the front foot early on, Bayley Harewood drawing the first save from Dimitri Zimozdra in the Sheffield goal inside the opening 60 seconds.

A series of Steeldogs penalties found the Tigers almost constantly on the power play midway through the first period but they could not find the breakthrough.

Instead it was Sheffield who went in front early after the first intermission. Brad Day, who had earlier saved brilliantly from Alex Graham, could do nothing to prevent Lee Haywood’s shot sneaking in at the near post.

The Tigers goaltender ensured the damage did not immediately get worse with two big stops as his team killed off a five-on-three power play. But three minutes before the end of the second period, Sheffield did go further ahead, Andreas Valdix winning a face-off before Henry Adams hammered the puck beyond Day.

Tigers threw everything at Sheffield from that point and gave themselves hope with a goal 90 seconds from the end of the game. A long range shot from Andy McKinney beat Zimozdra low down to halve the deficit.

Head coach Watkins immediately pulled Day after a time-out but when Sheffield recovered possession, Graham fired into the empty net to seal his team’s win.

Watkins said: “Congratulations to Sheffield they got the first goal and managed to shut the game down from there.

“If we score first, it is perhaps a different game.”

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