Watkins frustrated to see Telford Tigers twice let lead slip
A promising Telford Tigers performance went unrewarded as they endured a ‘frustrating finish’ at home to reigning champions Leeds Knights.
The Tigers led twice through Vladimir Luka and Jesse Sutton, but conceded three times in the closing stages before a late consolation from Scott McKenzie.
And that made it four straight defeats for the Tigers, who return to action at Bees on Saturday (6.30pm) and at home to Sheffield Steeldogs on Sunday (6pm).
Head coach Tom Watkins said: “It was a frustrating finish to the game and disappointing to lose after a really solid 40 minutes where we were very disciplined and played with a lot of responsibility.
“We took the lead twice and shut down a very good offensive opposition.
“I thought in the third period we didn’t play with the same responsibility or discipline, giving up way too many odd man rushes shift after shift.
“You can’t play these top teams when you don’t perform for the duration of the game.
“We didn’t stick to our systems on or off the puck and it cost us the points.”
Tigers were without the services of Danny Rose, Jonathan Weaver, Ricky Plant, Sam Watkins and Lucas Price but added James Smith to the line-up.
The opening period was fast paced and feisty from the first whistle and within 35 seconds of the start, Jordan Griffin and man-of-the-match Jaden Peca dropped the gloves and both ended up serving five-minute fighting penalties.
Tigers deservedly opened the scoring in the fifth minute of the game.
Fin Howells’ shot from the slot was saved by Sam Gospel in the Leeds goal, but Luka was first to the rebound and chipped the puck over the prone Gospel to give the home side the lead.
Brad Day was in fine form and made a terrific save from Kieron Brown – despite falling backwards, he managed to grab the puck out of the air to prevent a certain goal.
Late in the period, Leeds equalised. A long-range shot from the left circle by Bow Neely beat Day low down by his near post.
With both teams taking regular trips to the penalty box, it was no surprise when the next goal was on the power play. With Griffin serving a roughing penalty, Tigers regained the lead.
Luka worked the puck to Sutton low down and he skated in on goal before back-handing the puck over Gospel’s pads and into the net.
Jordan Buesa hit the post for Leeds – the puck striking the inside of the post and somehow bouncing out to be cleared when it looked like a certain goal.
Late in the period, Jake Price was called for holding behind the play, gifting an unnecessary power play to the visitors.
With an agonising three seconds left of the power play, Leeds equalised.
A shot from the slot by Lewis Baldwin was tipped past Day by Matt Haywood to leave the game finally balanced going into the third period. Early in the third period, the visitors took their first lead of the game.
A shot by Buesa was saved by Day with his pads but Josh Adkins was left with an open net to shoot the rebound into.
Midway through the period, Leeds increased their lead.
A turnover by Rhodes Mitchell-King left Matt Baron with a free shot at goal and the Leeds forward shot past Day to give the home team a mountain to climb.
Tigers pressured the Leeds goal for the remainder of the game and pulled a goal back with one second of the game left.
A shot by Mitchell-King was tipped past Gospel by McKenzie, but with no time left to get an equaliser, Tigers fell to a fourth straight defeat.