Middlesbrough Lions Bid for League Title
By Tom Jameson
Wednesday 01 Feb 2012 12:11:00
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This Sunday will see tadea Middlesbrough Lions attempt to place one hand on the league title, should they beat joint first placed Rossendale Raptors at Eston Sports Academy.


The feat will be no easy one as the Raptors head to Eston looking for their 11th straight win. They have the best winning record in the league and have only lost twice this season; only once with star man Stephen Gayle. This loss though, was at the hands of the Lions, a 1pt victory in the most dramatic of fashions at Rossendale in early November.


Since then; Lions have further strengthened their squad with the additions of Lee Norton and more recently Luke Somerville and Dijon Fisher, three high calibre players who will bolster Lions credentials as serious title and play off contenders.


This game however is one neither team can afford to lose. The other team in the joint top threesome; Stockport Falcons are expected to falter which will leave Lions and Raptors to fight it out for the Championship. Falcons will lose their head coach; Andy White on Saturday and this is expected to have a marked effect on the team who are still to play Lions at Eston and Raptors in Rossendale.


Two losses here would end Stockport’s challenge and in addition to the other tough games they have and the loss of their coach, it is difficult to see them holding on.

Middlesbrough, having already beaten Rossendale, will be awarded the head to head should they win on Sunday while Rossendale need to beat Lions by 2pts or more.


In recent games Rossendale have continued their dominant run with 14pt wins over Liverpool and Mohawks and before this a 24pt win at Hull and a mammoth 75pt win over Mersey Tigers. Middlesbrough have enjoyed 12pt wins in their last two over Mohawks and Hull while the three games previous to that enjoyed an average winning margin of an incredible 47pts.


Both teams will be fired up ahead of the game knowing that everything they have must be left on the court. The battle of the coaches will be another crucial element as both Coach Thomson of Lions and Coach Fry of Raptors attempt to outwit each other.


While many are predicting the game hinging on Raptors Stephen Gayle, Lions coach James Thomson believes it is Rossendale who will be have to stop Lions. “Looking at the league stats you have Gayle and Robinson fighting for player of the season, but you will also see we have a number of other players in the top categories with Samb & Konanec up their in scoring, rebounding and assists. Konanec is the leading rebounder and shot blocker in the league and this gives us an edge heading into the game. We do need to limit Gayle but the real test will be Raptors capability of limiting three or four of our players.” said Coach Thomson.


Raptors Coach Jim Fry believes Lions may be favourites ahead of the clash adding “We have picked up a few injuries recently which have weakened our capabilities, but we still have a strong core and hope to maintain our promotion challenge. We have produced some terrific results this season and we will be hoping to do so again on Sunday.”

The return from injury of Richy Summerbell last week was a welcome boost to the squad especially as fellow point guard Dan Armory will be missing for a couple of weeks with a groin strain.


Tickets are available on the day at just £4 adults, £3 children (17&U) & £12 family (2 adults, 2 children) For more info on game visit www.middlesbroughlions.com or call 01642 814221


(photos Steve Brown)

Lions Crowd v Hull

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