Aldridge admits to 'massive concern' as Swindon Wildcats slip out of play-off places

Swindon Advertiser: Swindon Wildcats coach Ryan Aldridge Swindon Wildcats coach Ryan Aldridge

RYAN Aldridge admits Swindon Wildcats’ season cannot continue on its current path.

Wildcats dropped out of the EPL play-off spots last night following a 6-3 loss in Manchester and while there is plenty of time to put the predicament right, the head coach has major concerns over his team’s displays at present.

Aldridge was due to sit down with Wildcats general manager Steve Nell this morning to discuss the way forward, and he is adamant that no subject will be left untouched, with changes just one of a number of topics up for discussion.

“We’ve got a few games in hand but it’s a massive concern (to drop out of the play-offs) with the team we’ve got and where we are right now,” said Aldridge.

“Me and Steve have got lots to talk about in the morning because we’re not going to carry on like this.

“We’ll put everything on the table - changes and all sorts of things - we’ll have to sit and talk about everything.”

The Adver has learnt that defenceman Tomas Fojtik’s potentially-lengthened stay will be among the subjects discussed.

Fojtik rejoined the Link Centre team in a short-term arrangement before Christmas and has been at home in the Czech Republic over the festive period.

It is understood that Wildcats are keen to extend the stay of the Swindon-based player. Were Fojtik to agree to remain at the Link Centre, it would give a boost to a defence currently struggling to keep opponents out.

Wildcats allowed their hosts 54 shots on goal yesterday evening and conceded three times inside 90 second-period seconds.

“I think Manchester just scored in those two minutes, I don’t think we were good the whole period,” said Aldridge. We came out flat and played the whole period flat.

“Boys look intimidated and not by other teams, by the game. They look flat and frustrated and are panicking.

“It wasn’t good enough. After coming in at the end of the first period 2-1 up, our second period performance wasn’t good enough, plain and simple.

“I thought we were better in the third but the second cost us the game.”

The defeat against Manchester saw Swindon drop out of the play-off places for the first time this season.

Telford’s 4-0 triumph over Basingstoke combined with Swindon’s loss at Altrincham Ice Dome meant Aldridge’s troops were pushed down to ninth in the table.

Matters had looked modestly bright when Swindon led 2-1 - albeit against the run of play - after the first period.

However, three goals inside 90 seconds in the second period knocked the visitors way off course and despite improving in the third, they never looked like taking a point or better back to Wiltshire.

Manchester might have iced a netminder in less than prime physical condition - Steve Fone missed Saturday’s 5-2 defeat to Basingstoke due to illness - but he was generally well-protected by his defencemen.

And the Phoenix’s imports showed why their reputations continue to grow, with Robin Kovar slamming in a hat-trick alongside Michal Psurny’s double, as Tony Hand’s side outshot their visitors 54-28.

The home team began in determined mood and had the advantage at 5.11 on the powerplay after Swindon D-man Stevie Whitfield was called for tripping.

Joe Graham skidded the puck across goal and after goaltender Stevie Lyle blocked well from Hand, forward Kovar was in the right place to squeeze in the opener.

However, Swindon were soon level with their first meaningful attack of the game at 7.59.

Sam Smith bombed towards the net off the left wing and squared for Jan Kostal, who saw his initial shot saved but stabbed home at the second attempt.

Moments later the visitors stunned Phoenix by taking the lead in fortunate fashion, thanks in large part to a howler from Fone.

It seemed a straightforward hold from Ryan Watt’s shot but the goaltender somehow scooped the puck behind him and across goal after initially appearing to gather, which allowed Jonas Hoog to slam home from a narrow angle (9.16).

The hosts turned matters round with three goals in a 1.19 spell midway through the period.

First defenceman Robert Schnabel pulled back for Psurny to find a route past Lyle (30.44), and 24 seconds later Richard Bentham managed the same feat from Liam Chong and Jack Watkins.

Aldridge attempted to steady the ship by calling a time out but at 32.03, Manchester surged further ahead when Kovar neatly finished past Lyle.

Hoog capitalised on some generous home defending to set up Nell to score at 43.01 but just over two minutes later Wildcats were punished on the powerplay with Psurny tapping in while Watt sat out a hooking penalty.

Swindon had three powerplays in the final 11 minutes but could not beat the battling Fone as the match slipped further away from them with Kovar completing his hat-trick at 54.43.

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