BRACKNELL Bees are hoping to have Roman Malinik, Josh Martin and Ben Paynter back on duty for their top-of-the-table clash with Swindon Wildcats at the Hive this Sunday (6pm), writes Dave Wright.

Import Malinik has missed three games since being given a match ban at the end of 6-5 home defeat by Streatham on November 10. He is the Bees' top scorer with 12 goals, just one fewer than Swindon's Aaron Nell, in addition to making 11 assists.

Head coach Doug Sheppard admitted early this week: "We don't know how long he is out for, hopefully, he'll be back soon."

Martin and Paynter have both been sidelined through injury and will be assessed this week.

Sheppard continued: "We have plenty of bodies to get the job done, the team has got good depth, so we are fortunate to be able to deal with some injuries."

The head coach knows, however, that Bees will have a better chance of beating Wildcats if he has his strongest squad on duty for what looks an extremely stiff task with Swindon having won 12 of their 14 matches.

Bees had headed the NIHL South One placings since early season, but three successive defeats saw them drop down a place behind their in-form M4 rivals.

Last Saturday, Bees slumped to a 4-3 overtime defeat at third-bottom Raiders in Romford. But at least they came away with a point and added two more to their total on Sunday when they thumped Milton Keynes Thunder 7-3.

Sheppard commented: “We’ll take three out of four points, but it was still frustrating on Saturday not picking up the full points. After three successive defeats, we needed this win tonight (Sunday)."

He was, however, forced to shake up his side after seeing them lose the opening period 2-0.

"We came out flat. There was no excuse for it and we needed a wake-up call," added the coach.

"But we came back strong and showed good character. The guys played a solid 40 minutes, but you've got to be prepared to play like that for all 60 minutes. Once we got going, we were fine."

Ryan Watt, 17-year-old Zack Milton and Vanya Antonov all scored twice before David Millner completed the rout

This will be Swindon's second visit to the Hive this season, having triumphed 4-3 in overtime last month.