Last Friday down at Worcester was a tough one for Esh Group Eagles Newcastle as they lost a fourth consecutive road game to a Wolves side looking to seal their play-off place, writes Jeff King.

But, once again the Eagles had to face up to a home side with their own roster severely short-handed and nowhere near 100% fit. Drew Lasker was still in Australia with the England basketball team but crucially he was joined on the side-lines by Eagles and The BBL’s top scorer Jaysean Paige.

Paige who has been instrumental in a lot of the Eagles victories this season turned an ankle in training and missed the trip to Worcester. The injury is being monitored but he very much faces a race against time to make this Friday’s home clash against Manchester Giants.

One player though who will be back on home-court duty against the Giants will be Captain Darius Defoe who has been much missed for his inside presence and rebounding prowess since picking up the injury which forced him out of the Commonwealth Games reckoning.

Defoe, alongside Player/Coach Fab Flournoy, made a surprise return against Worcester and whilst he and his coach couldn’t turn the tide the Eagles way, it was a bonus that both got some minutes in as the BBL Play-Offs loom.

Defoe was delighted to be back although disappointed at the result and the manner of the defeat.

“It wasn’t planned that I would play last Friday but once Jaysean pulled out we had to re-think our plans and I felt I could give the team some help. In the end I had one or two tough calls against me, but it was good to be back out on court again.”

“It was always going to be tough against Worcester they are a good team especially at home and without Jaysean we knew it would be a struggle. It didn’t help that things went against us and shots didn’t drop but we tried our best. It just wasn’t our night.”

Defoe though has come out of the early return well and is now looking forward to Friday’s game and getting more minutes. He’s also pleased to have Drew Lasker back on the bench as well.

“I don’t like watching games and though I supported the guys from the bench I would always rather be out there playing. That’s when I can help best. My knee was sore after Friday’s game even with the limited minutes I played but, it feels ok now and I’m back in training.”

“That means I can play on Friday against Manchester and I should also be able to play more minutes and with the extra training sessions behind me I’m looking to make an impact and help us get a win which we need.”

“It’ll be great to have Drew back too. I hope he’s all right after his trip away and is ready to help us too on Friday. We’ve missed his energy from the bench and his experience too. It’ll be really good to have him back with us.”

Whether Paige and Flournoy will also be in the line-up remains to be seen which makes it even more important that the Eagles have the know-how and experience of their Captain for a game that they will feel they can and need to win as they push for the BBL runners-up spot.