Rhinos, Wizards look to strengthen position

Ranchi: As the battle for the top spot in the Hero Hockey India League intensifies, both Ranchi Rhinos and Uttar Pradesh Wizards will look to register a win here tomorrow.

This will be the last match between the Rhinos and the Wizards before the second break of the tournament and thus could set the tempo for the remainder of this tournament.

The Wizards have enhanced their performance in the competition, having won two and drawn two of their four matches, and are trailing league leaders Delhi Waveriders by three points.

The Rhinos, on the other hand, have lost a bit of steam after making a rousing start to their campaign and would love to register a handsome win over the visitors before flying out to Lucknow for a return fixture 48 hours later.

The Wizards had to survive many anxious moments during their 2-2 draw against Punjab Warriors yesterday and would be indebted to their Australian custodian George Bazeley to help them stay in the hunt before skipper V R Raghunath salvaged two points with his drag flicks.

The Indian international has recovered well from a slow start and has already scored four goals of the team`s seven goals in the tournament and the Rhinos would have to come up with a strategy to avoid conceding penalty corners.

The forward line of Teun de Nooijer, Tushar Khandker, S K Uthappa and Jeroen Hertzberger has also started to gel well and it would be interesting to see if they can convert the ball possession into goals, something that they haven`t managed with certainty in the first four games.

While the Wizards must be worried about the lack of goals from their forward line, the Rhinos need to quickly find a solution to their penalty corner conversion woes and the lack of goals from their foreign recruits.

Captain Moritz Fuerste and Dutchman Floris Evers have been impressive with their passing but had it not been for some effective poaching from youngster Mandeep Singh, the team has been struggling to push enough bodies forward to pounce on the hopeful crosses inside the striking circle.

They would hope to change the picture tomorrow.

Ranchi Rhinos co-coach, Baljit Singh Saini said, "Uttar Pradesh Wizards is a challenging team to play against, and we need to be cautious about giving them opportunities for penalty corners since their conversion rate is very high.

"Having said that, the youngsters in our team having been performing really well and I am sure we will give the away team a hard time on the field."

VR Raghunath captain, Uttar Pradesh Wizards said, "Ranchi Rhinos are playing two back-to-back games and we will try to take advantage of this. With 14 points on board, we stand second on the points table.

"We have a great momentum going for us right now. The entire team is performing well and we are looking forward to keep this momentum going and convert it into positive results in tomorrow`s game against Ranchi Rhinos," he said.

Match starts at 6 pm IST.