THE prolonged absence of stricken player-coach Fab Flournoy “won’t wash” as an excuse for more BBL Cup misery, according to Newcastle Eagles skipper Andrew Bridge.
Flournoy will miss tonight’s quarter-final against Worcester Wolves with a knee ligament strain, putting the pressure on the rest of the roster to pick up the defensive slack.
The Eagles have lost points by suffering defensive lapses at key moments this season – with Flournoy putting defeats against the Wolves, Mersey Tigers and Cheshire Jets down to defensive disorganisation.
But Bridge says those problems should have been solved by work done of the training court this week.
“I think we can cope with Fab’s absence, definitely. We did it against Sheffield – if you look at our defensive display there we were very strong,” he said.
“Fab is an important player and has been for a few years now but it simply won’t wash as an excuse for us not winning or not going through. We have to be better than that.
“It is just about people understanding their roles and knowing what they need to do to fill in for Fab.
“If I look at that Sheffield game, you’d have to say we did that.
“I think it is made slightly easier for us because we know that Fab won’t be involved in the game. I think it is more difficult when he is ruled out through injury during a game – then people might struggle to adapt during the game.
“Of course we’d prefer to have one of our better players on the court but if he’s not fit enough then there is no point in him playing and risking another injury.”
The notoriously tough-to-please Bridge is hoping the Eagles build on the improvement of recent weeks.
Although they were not in action last weekend, the Eagles notched a big victory over Essex Pirates and then followed it up by defeating Sheffield Sharks on the road. That has been followed by talk that the BBL champions are finally flexing their muscles – but Bridge feels they still have plenty to prove.
“Have we turned a corner? I don’t think you can say that until we win a few more games,” he said. “We have definitely played a lot better but that is all that we can say at the moment.
“To say that we have turned a corner we need to prove it in the big games and we’ve got some big games this month. We are playing teams that have already proved their ability against us this season so we know it will be difficult if we don’t play to the best of our ability.”
While their defeats to Worcester and Mersey Tigers will put the Eagles on alert, Bridge dismisses any talk of being on a revenge mission.
Worcester’s narrow victory earlier in the season was the high point of their campaign to date – with defeats to the Tigers, the Glasgow Rocks and the Sheffield Sharks having followed.
“I don’t really see it as revenge or us using that game as motivation for us to win this one,” Bridge said.
“If we thought like that then we’d never be concentrating on the game that was right in front of us.
“The simple fact is that we’re playing a good team and it’s going to be tough. It’s the most important game of the season because it is the next one.”