Loss of Viper Longstaff forces tactical re-think
ROB Wilson has told his Newcastle Vipers imports they must step up a gear to make up for the loss of David Longstaff – now he must devise the tactical plans to cover the loss of the talismanic skipper.
The Great Britain centre suffered a double fracture of the jaw in Sunday’s defeat to Hull Stingrays and has been ruled out of the Elite League play-offs.
It is a massive blow to the Vipers and the 35-year-old himself after an injury-hit season. “All the imports have to play big in the play-offs now and our Brits are going to have to step up with a big goal or a big play,” said Wilson.
“Ben Campbell’s had a great year and he’s going to have to have a great play-offs now but it’s our imports we’ll be looking to most.” The Vipers are not short of local talent but most is, like Campbell, of the inexperienced variety. “Some teams have three or four top Brits – Coventry and Nottingham have four, Sheffield three,” reflected Wilson. “David’s going to be a huge loss for us and I’ll have to decide how we’re going to cover it.
“We don’t have a big bench to begin with. It’s really frustrating because we were just starting to bring him back slowly after his last injury.
“Now he’s going to miss the play-offs and Great Britain’s internationals at the end of the season.
“He’s got a high pain threshold but he’s suffered a lot this season.” Without a ready-made replacement to call on, Wilson must now rob Peter to pay Paul when he decides the make-up of his lines. “With Lobby being out we’ve lost depth so we’ll have to move someone out of position,” he acknowledged.
“Do I run two lines or three? Do I move a defenceman to go up front? There’s a lot of things I need to decide.” Those decisions must be made quickly so Wilson can have a dry run in this weekend’s games against title-chasers Belfast Giants and Nottingham Panthers, the club’s final league matches before the play-offs.
“We might try a few things out at the weekend,” said Wilson.