After picking up a win last weekend against Cheshire Phoenix to get themselves back in the race to qualify for the quarter finals of the BBL Cup, Newcastle Eagles have been hit with a fresh blow to their hopes of retaining the trophy they lifted back in January last season.
Some players and coaching staff will miss tonight’s tip-off due to COVID-19 implications and isolation as the club follows BBL COVID-19 secure play protocols to ensure the safety of everyone involved this week’s games.
As a result, newly installed assistant Gary Stronach will take charge in the absence of coach Macleod and lead assistant Jack Burgess.
Stronach of course is no stranger to head coach duties having been the Plymouth Raiders play-caller for sixteen seasons including their first six in the top-flight.
During that time, he guided the Raiders to the BBL Cup Final in 2009 as well as BBL Trophy success in 2007 when they defeated Newcastle on their own court.
“Gary was maybe not expecting such responsibility so soon, but I have full confidence in him”, MacLeod confirmed.
“It’s far from ideal but the players are aware of the situation and we’ve prepared as well as we could.”
“Sheffield will be eager to get back to winning ways after back-to-back losses, and maybe they see this as an ideal situation for them, but maybe that could lead to some complacency, who knows.
“I’m still confident that we’ve got enough to keep us in contention this weekend.”
Newcastle will still have the veteran leadership of on-court general Rahmon Fletcher to rely on and no-one in the Eagles camp is more aware of the team’s system and capabilities.
Stronach will no doubt use Fletcher’s knowledge and experience along with his own abilities to try and execute a winning game plan in difficult and unexpected circumstances.
It was always going to be a tough game for the Eagles after they went down narrowly to Sheffield a fortnight ago on their own court by 85 – 82. Many thought that Newcastle should have shaded that game.
With last week’s win over Cheshire Phoenix, the Eagles were looking forward to reversing that previous result against the Sharks and keep their defence of the BBL Cup on track.
The unfortunate events that have unfolded during the week will make that task a little harder especially with a trip to Glasgow on Sunday also lined-up. However, there is still a lot of talent in Newcastle’s roster and they will hope to find triumph in the face of adversity.
Tonight’s game at Ponds Forge tips-off at 7:30pm and fans can follow the action live on the BBL Player.