Newcastle Eagles player-coach Fab Flournoy has warned against taking London Lions lightly – predicting they will be in the mood to “spoil the party” at Sport Central.
Eagles have chiselled out big wins against Leicester Riders and Worcester Wolves in the last few weeks and that has put them in pole position in the BBL title race, which they will win if they manage to dodge a defeat in their last seven games.
Newcastle’s run-in has five home games and two away – and it is tonight’s visit of the Lions and April’s hosting of Sheffield Sharks that look the most treacherous of their fixtures on paper.
Flournoy certainly counts London as one of the most dangerous teams in the league, with his side still bearing the scars of a couple of bruising encounters this term. They lost 96-82 before Christmas before avenging the defeat with an 83-77 win on Valentine’s Day.
The resurgent London franchise sit fifth in the league and are a good outside bet for the play-offs.
“They have had a fantastic season. In fact they are having a fantastic season,” Flournoy said.
“They are trying to build something this season and they will be coming to Sport Central desperate to spoil the party that we want to have. It’s a game that we have to win and it’s a game that is going to be very tough for us.
“Don’t forget the head-to-head is still up for grabs. We dropped a game to them just before Christmas but then we managed to pull one back but it shows there is very little between these two teams.”
Flournoy (pictured right) remembers the meeting between the two teams in February and has pin-pointed it as one of their toughest games of the BBL season. Not only has that planted doubts in his mind but he thinks it will also give London a confidence boost as they bid for the head-to-head triumph over the Eagles.
“London will be confident because they have already come up with a plan to beat us,” he said.
“They beat us well just before Christmas and in the game that we pulled back it was right in the balance until near the end of the game. They had a run and it was only really in the last few minutes that we managed to get control of the game. We nearly lost is.
“They will be extremely confident coming here and they will be extremely comfortable playing in our arena. They are one of the most dangerous teams in the league and anyone thinking that we have done the hard work now that we have beaten Leicester and Worcester needs to think again.”
With the Eagles on the road for most of their title run-in, the emphasis is clearly on Newcastle to win their two remaining home games.
Their April 4 meeting with Sheffield has the potential to decide the title but with the margin for error so slight, tonight’s game against London will also require the full support of a home crowd which has impressed Flournoy with its patience and ethusiasm this season.
“In all honesty playing at home this season has been tremendous for us. Our support has been amazing,” he said.
“This season has been different from any other season because at times, they haven’t known which Newcastle Eagles team was going to show up but our home support has always there regardless.
“Our team is on a learning curve. We are going through our ups and downs and the crowd have been with us throughout.
“They have been absolutely tremendous.”