SWINDON Wildcats player-coach Aaron Nell admitted he was just happy to be back playing after the club’s Spring Cup got off to a losing start against Sheffield Steeldogs last weekend.

Nell’s men were faced with the toughest side in the five-team tournament first, but they put up an admirable fight in both games across the weekend.

However, Cats lost 5-4 at home on Saturday before a poor three-minute period on Sunday resulted in a 4-2 defeat in Yorkshire.

The Cats’ coach was ultimately pleased with his team’s showing though and congratulated each of his players for working hard against the strong favourites to lift the Spring Cup title in March.

Nell said: “I thought they were two really good games, especially the first game on Saturday.

“Were we disappointed to lose both? Yes, of course, but it was a difficult situation because we haven’t played as a team for 11 months, and we’ve also got a lot of new players in. Then straight away, we’re into playing against a very good team in Sheffield.

“It’s tough to review in a normal situation because these would be friendly games in a normal season, but we’re just happy to be back playing.

“I was happy with the effort of the players, and I was happy with how we played overall apart from a three-minute period on Sunday where we struggled.”

With regular testing of players and staff throughout the streamed series, hockey officials are hopeful the tournament will be able to be played to its conclusion at the end of March.

Nell says he and his team will continue to take nothing for granted as the Wildcats return to the ice this weekend when they take on Bracknell Bees home and away.

Ahead of the fixture, the player-coach revealed he turned down a record number of players who have not been lucky enough to feature in the Spring Cup or Elite League since Covid intervened.

Nell said: “We’re taking each week as it comes really with the whole Covid situation. We’re very thankful to be back playing.

“I had more players than ever contact me about playing for us this year, so I feel very fortunate that we are playing because a lot of other guys want to be in our shoes.

“We’re just taking it a week at a time, and we’re hoping we can go into April and May.

“If that happens, great. If it doesn’t and we end in March, we’ll say thank you and get ready to start the season in September.”