EVEN the most optimistic Sheffield Sharks fan would have been hard pressed to think they’d return to Newcastle this season with a real chance of beating the Eagles when they were beaten by 21 points in January.
But after a run of 14 victories in 19 matches since then, which has brought them the BBL Trophy and a winning record in the league’s regular season the Sharks and Newcastle will go into tomorrow night’s first leg with little to choose between the teams.
The Eagles should be favourites. A second placed finish in the BBL Championship and a vastly experienced squad gives the Eagles fans and neutrals alike every confidence they can hold off the dynamism of Sharks relatively youthful line up over two legs - the second of which is on Monday at the EIS (7.30pm).
However, Sharks beat Newcastle the last time out and had a morale boosting win last Sunday at Cheshire Phoenix to round off their league campaign.
Coach Atiba Lyons says they’re heading into the tie confident but respectful of their opponents. He said: “The Cheshire win was good for us because we’d been a bit tired in training the week before after a long season. But we played well over there. Our main challenge tomorrow is to keep Newcastle quiet in the first quarter. They always come out with a lot of energy up there and shoot the ball very well on their home court.
“These two leg games are funny because you never know how to approach the second match until the first is done with. “The atmosphere in Newcastle is always good and I’m sure it’ll be the same back in Sheffield on Monday.”
Sharks are advising fans to order tickets before Monday because of limited seating in the EIS’ badminton hall.