Sheffield Sharks vs Plymouth Raiders – Preview

With just six games remaining in the regular season, Plymouth Raiders travel to Sheffield this Friday for a must win game against the Sharks.  

The Raiders fell out of play-off contention and into ninth place with a 90-98 loss to Manchester at the pavilions last Sunday.  Head Coach Paul James, understandably frustrated by the performance, lamented his team’s lack of consistency after the game.  

“We just weren’t at the races.  It was one of those games where we really needed to come out and stamp our authority on the game from the word go and we didn’t… There’s still a lot of learning to do, with very little time.”     

Despite suffering a heavy blow in the race for play-offs, James remained even handed as he discussed the opportunity of reclaiming eighth place.  

“Whilst there’s games left and it’s still mathematically possible, yes of course I’m confident but if we play like this (vs Manchester) it’s going to be a struggle.  We’ve made it a little difficult for ourselves now.”    

With Zak Wells out for the rest of the season, the Raiders have undoubtedly been missing an element of physicality in and around the boards.  Plymouth allowed Manchester’s Willie Clayton to secure 20 total rebounds last Sunday, a feat they can not allow to be replicated if they are to stand any chance on Friday evening.  There were positive performances from the likes of Josh Wilcher and Donte Nicholas despite the poor result, but Raiders fans will be expecting more from their surrounding cast in the games to come.  Nicholas was his usual effervescent self, producing 20 points and 10 rebounds, whilst the unwavering Wilcher lead his side with an impressive 23 points.  If the rest of the Plymouth squad can rally around these individual performances then the Raiders might be able to pull off the improbable, starting with a win in Sheffield. 

The Sharks have been in good form of late, winning three out of their last three games, defeating number five ranked London City Royals in the process.  Their last game was a close affair against the resurgent Glasgow Rocks in which Sheffield edged out a 65-63 win. Christopher Alexander lead the Sharks with 23 points against Glasgow and has been enjoying a successful season thus far, averaging 19.35 points per game.  The 6’1 playmaker is undoubtedly Sheffield’s most dangerous player and will be watched with caution by Coach James this Friday.  Dirk Williams will also be occupying the Raiders defence with his unbounded energy and impressive accuracy from beyond the arc.  Sheffield will be especially keen for a win in order to maintain the gap between themselves and the Royals who are just two points behind with three games in hand 

If you can’t make the trip up north this Friday, you can follow all the action via the @officialraiders Twitter page.  Our next home game is against Worcester Wolves on April 14th at 3 p.m.  At this stage of the season every game is a must win game, so make sure you come out and support your city! 

Let’s go Raiders!

Josh Lines