Dropped Clark in from the cold for Flyers test

Frozen out: Neil Clark waiting in the wings for a Steelers call-up.
Frozen out: Neil Clark waiting in the wings for a Steelers call-up.
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HE was the odd man out for an entire three-match winning weekend.

It must have been an uncomfortable experience for Neil Clark, the import watching from the stands as Sheffield Steelers improved their chances of winning the League and the Challenge Cup.

In fairness to Clark, there was nobody who wanted the club to win as much as he did, against Belfast, Coventry and Braehead.

And his patience on the sidelines will be rewarded by a return to the side next weekend, in the home and away session with Fife Flyers.

Player coach Ryan Finnerty explained: “Before last weekend I said that if we win a game we’ll stick with the same line up, and I kind of stuck to that. If we had dropped a game I would probably have made a change.

“I am so superstitious that I don’t generally like to change things that are working.

“Saying that, I want to get Clarkie back in the line up and get him going. It is not a personal thing, it is just the situation we are in right now (having an extra, 11th import).

Asked whether he might drop a defenceman against Fife, who are bottom of the Elite League and have won only twice in 21 games, Finnerty replied: “We have got few options for the Fife game we are going to look at, but we cannot take them lightly, they are getting better every week gave Belfast Giants a good game, on Saturday (3-1 win for the Irish.)

“We will have a lot of respect for them coming here and we’ll pick what we think is the best line up for Fife.

“I’m sure it has been three long nights for Clarkie, it’s a tough situation. But he’s come to the rink worked out with trainers and been professional about it and that’s all you can ask of him. We’ll put him in this weekend.”

Steelers are seven points behind league leaders Belfast, but have no fewer than six games in hand over them.

So how confident, at this stage, is Finnerty that Sheffield can successfully defend their title in the New Year?

“I still have my doubts whether we are going to win or not, before I step on the ice. And it doesn’t always go you good to keep looking at the league table. We found out last year, in Cardiff, that it can drain you. Instead, you have got to go about it week by week.

“I will be happy if we continue to grind out wins, winning games we shouldn’t be.

“While I do feel we have a championship team it is not a team that can go out and act like they expect to win, they have to work for it. We don’t have superstars.”

Paul Thompson had stepped down from his role of head coach of the Great Britain national programme to focus his efforts on trying to save his cash-stricken Coventry Blaze club.