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Raiders coach Easton eager to maintain momentum for shot at top four in new year

PUBLISHED: 14:30 22 December 2017

Thomas Beesley is outnumbered by Invicta players at Lee Valley (pic John Scott)

Thomas Beesley is outnumbered by Invicta players at Lee Valley (pic John Scott)

Archant

London Raiders head coach Sean Easton wants his side to build on their strong finish to 2017 when they return to action in the new year.

Zach Grandy-Smith hands over his jersey to two young fans (pic John Scott)Zach Grandy-Smith hands over his jersey to two young fans (pic John Scott)

Raiders ended the calendar year with back-to-back wins over Invicta Dynamos, in the National League and cup, but now face two free weekends before heading to Cardiff on January 6.

And Easton has some clear goals in mind for the new year, with Raiders in fifth place behind the former EPL quartet of Basingstoke, Peterborough, Swindon and Bracknell.

He said: “The team’s target for 2018 is to pick up where we have left off 2017, continue the streak we have going, but to win our mini-series we have per team.

“We now want to stop thinking of the big four as that and treat them as winnable games.

“We have shown and proved we can match them on the night, so unfortunately for them we will be looking at treating the league as a competitive and winnable one.

“Even though the league title may now be out of reach, we want to be in that top four.”

Raiders have won five of their last six matches in all competitions and eight in 11 dating back to early November.

They fell behind to Ashley Jackson’s goal towards the end of the first period at Lee Valley on Saturday, but Jake Sylvester levelled in the middle period.

And after in-form Brandon Ayliffe put Raiders 2-1 up, Marek Nahlik’s last-second empty-net goal sealed a 3-1 win, although it was overshadowed by a nasty facial injury to forward Alan Lack, 25, who was left needing surgery after blocking a shot.

Easton said: “With no fuss he got up and marched straight to the changing room to get treated. He suffered a loss of teeth, a totally split lower lip and breaks in his jaw. He will be in and out of hospital for quite some time now unfortunately.

“This showed his commitment to the sport and team. A guy like ‘Lacky’ is hated by most teams as he only knows how to play one style – heart-on-the-sleeve full commitment to the cause. He is a warrior and will come back stronger, I just feel for him and his young family.”

Juraj Huska cancelled out Mason Webster’s opener on Sunday, with Thomas Beesley’s first goal of the season levelling it after Jackson’s power play goal. And Marek Nahlik netted an overtime winner as goalie Zach Grandy-Smith made 46 saves.

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