BRACKNELL Bees face Manchester Phoenix at The Hive on Saturday (6pm face-off) in a game they simply cannot afford to lose, writes Dave Wright.

The sides occupy the bottom two places in the EPIHL and a defeat for the Bees would certainly harm their hopes of lifting themselves into a play-off place as they currently trail eighth-placed Sheffield Steeldogs by six points.

“This is a massive game for us,” admits James Galazzi.

“We are going into the game confident and we will be looking to pick up the points we need.”

Bees drew a blank last weekend, losing 5-0 at Basingstoke Bison on Saturday before losing 5-2 at home to title-chasing Milton Keynes Lightning.

However, Sunday’s performance offered a lot of encouragement as they twice took the lead and missed scoring chances before conceding three goals in the last 13 minutes of an exciting end-to-end-game.

“If we can repeat the level of performance we showed tonight, then we should be fine (against Manchester),” said Galazzi following the MK game.

“I thought we played well against a really good team.

“The first two periods went well for us, but a shame it got away from us at the end.

“They are a team battling at the top for the title and have a big, strong roster full of depth.

“At the end of the day, they just beat us, but the bounces went their way.

“We worked hard all night and we had some good chances which we didn’t take.”

The 33-year-old forward added: “Making the play-offs is our goal and we still believe we are going to achieve it.

“We have games against teams we think we can match and pick up points from.”

Galazzi accepts that if Bees are to achieve their target then they will need to build on performances like they produced against a super-slick MK side.

It is not often that Bracknell get to score first in a home game, but they did last weekend.

After net-minder Alex Mettam had saved brilliantly from Frantisek Bakrlik, Bees rapidly turned defence into attack through Shaun Thompson and Alex Barker with Lukas Smital supplying a class finish.

That goal came in the 11th minute, but they were only ahead for 62 seconds with Lightning striking back through Blaz Emersic.

While Bees were out-shot 12-5 in the opening 20 minutes, they were more productive in the second period, having 10 goal attempts, just one fewer than their visitors.

But the period again ended all square. Another swift counter-attack, this time engineered by David Gaborcik, enabled Luka Basic to put Bees back in front on 23:10, and they held on until the 29th minute when Adam Carr motored through the home defence to equalise.

With play continually switching from end to end, the game could have gone either way, but in the end it was MK’s superior finishing that won the game.

Carr’s second goal of the evening made it 3-2 on 47-19 with Michael Farn adding the fourth on 54:12 to put the game out of Bracknell’s reach.

With two minutes remaining, Bees withdrew Mettam and Jordan Cownie slotted into an empty net from wide out left to complete the scoring on 58:47.

“They had that little bit of extra quality,” admitted Galazzi, who was acting skipper in the continued absence of injured Matt Foord.

Smital was voted Bees’ player of the match.

Galazzi pointed out that his side had failed to show the same form when losing 5-0 at Basingstoke the previous night.

“We were a bit flat,” he said. “Again, we were not great in front of their net and we did didn’t take our chances, and made it easy for the opposition which was disappointing.”

Bees, who had 23 attempts on goal compared to Bison’s 29, conceded three goals in the first period, but improved after that and it wasn’t until the opening four minutes of the final period when their hosts added two further goals.

Shaun Thompson was Bees’ man of the match against his former club.

Once again, Bracknell were missing the injured Foord, Scott Spearing and Rupert Quiney.

Foord, who has had a back problem, got in some skating last week and could possibly return this weekend.

Spearing has also returned to training as he tests out his knee problem, while Quiney is seeing a specialist to check his injured shoulder.

Bees take on Manchester on Saturday and visit Telford on Sunday.