Coach admits his side may be scared

Ryan Fuinnerty, Sheffield Steelers coach, on the bench at Nottingham
Ryan Fuinnerty, Sheffield Steelers coach, on the bench at Nottingham
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Nottingham were Panthers - but Sheffield were scaredy-cats.

That is Sheffield player-coach Ryan Finnerty’s fear as he rakes over the embarrassment of losing two Christmas games to rivals Nottingham Panthers.

“I saw some things this last weekend that I didn’t like,” he said. “I don’t like to see guys scared but I think I did at certain times. You shouldn’t be scared playing Nottingham you should look forward to it, you should relish it.”

Finnerty admits he is “down and disappointed right now” and that, apart from fears that his side were intimidated - he didn’t know why they had conceded 10 goals in the back-to-back matches against Panthers.

“It may be a mental thing, some guys thinking we just can’t beat them,” he said. “They will have to get that thought out of their head.”

Clearly defensive frailties need addressing.

While home-grown Mark Thomas continues to come on in leaps and bounds, the team has no hugely aggressive import d-man who clears forwards away from the crease.

One d-man, Chad Huttel was rested recently, with Finnerty admitting his performance levels needed improving. And latest recruit Francis Trudel was benched in the later stages of the 5-1 defeat in Nottingham.

Finnerty had hoped his team-building had been completed, but now recognises that he might not have got it completely right.

“I’d thought I’d made my last change to this team but perhaps I haven’t,” he says. “I have the ownership’s backing and that they will leave any decision to me. If there are players out there who want it more and can help us I won’t hesitate to make changes.”

Added to the mix of problems is that Finnerty seems not to favour import winger Neil Clark - he has been dropped more than any other player recently.

While Finnerty also has his own injury problems - a recurrence of a long-standing back issue - which prevented him from bringing his own feisty play to Nottingham arena.

Finnerty concludes the two defeats were a “reality check”.

His club have six games in hand over leaders Belfast Giants - but are nine points behind so cannot afford a form slide.