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Tigers fall to defeat in play-off final

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Telford Tigers logo Tigers coach Tom Watkins has told his men not to dwell on the 7-2 defeat to Milton Keynes Lighting in the EPL play-off final on Sunday.

Defeat at the Skydome Arena denied Telford their second double success in three years, after they won the EPL league title in March.

It brings the curtain down on an otherwise successful season for the side, following financial struggles earlier in the campaign.

The Tigers forwards see another attack turned away. Photo by Steve Brodie.Telford struggled to contain Milton Keynes in the first period on Sunday and then conceded a string of breakaway goals as they looked for a way back into the game.

Watkins, who will now begin planning his squad next season, said: “I’ve tried to tell the boys afew moments ago, but I’m sure they weren’t listening, that they shouldn’t dwell on today’s result.

“We won the league, so there has been much more to our season than that performance. It was one of those unfortunate things that happens in sport, and we weren’t good enough tonight.”

Telford struggled to impose themselves in the opening exchanges, and were behind after just six minutes.

Lightning forward Blaz Emersic was left unchallenged in the slot and sent his shot high into Baston’s goal.

That strike appeared to give the Tigers a wake-up call and Clarkson went close to equalising just moments later.

The Canadian saw his shot saved at close range by Lightning netminder Przemyslaw Odrobny, following a well-timed pass from Matty Davies on the left wing.

On 14 minutes, however, the county men went further behind.

Craig Scott was the scorer for Milton Keynes, after he benefited from a fine passing move by Emersic and Frantisek Bakrlik, which left Baston exposed.

Watkins added: “Milton Keynes came out much quicker tonight and were much more aggressive. They kept us on the back foot for most of the first 20 minutes and got that lead.

“From there we tried to push on and got our shots up, but we didn’t capitalise on them.”

Telford stepped up the pressure in the second session, but were unable to find a way past the Lightning defence.

They did have the puck in the net earlier in the session, but the net was judged to have left it’s moorings.

And the Tigers went 3-0 down on 24 minutes, after Leigh Jamieson’s long-range shot beat Baston to the top-left corner of his net.

Milton Keynes added fourth goal on 35 minutes, when they took advantage of a powerplay to score through Lewis Hook.

Telford added further pressure later in the period, but were caught out on 38 minutes when Bakrlik made the scoreline 5-0 with a breakaway strike.

It wasn’t until the 41st minute that the Tigers opened their account, thanks to Doug Clarkson’s shot through a crowded Lightning goalmouth.

But Bakrlik hit back for Milton Keynes just moments later, as he capitalised on a defensive mix-up from Telford to restore that five goal cushion.

The Tigers added a second powerplay goal of the night at the midway point of the period, when Sam Zajac’s shot from the blue line found its way past Odrobny.

Milton Keynes hit back once again just 60 seconds later, when Craig Scott shot past Baston’s left leg from close range to secure the play-off title.

“We didn’t deserve to win tonight,” Watkins said.

“It was one of those nights when whatever happened, we made mistakes and didn’t get the bounces.

“Milton Keynes earned the win tonight.”

Sunday’s game was played in front of a capacity 3,000 crowd at the Skydome, and Watkins paid tribute to a sizeable travelling support from Telford.

He said: “Our fans have been great all season and it is hard to take when you play and don’t win.

“But when you play and struggle like we did today, that is probably one of three times we have done that this season.

“To do it in a cup final is heartbreaking.”

Telford reached the final courtesy of a 3-2 win over Basingstoke Bison in Saturday’s semi-final.

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