BIG Storage Cheshire Jets will have to turn the form book on its head if they are to take anything from Sunday’s home meeting with Newcastle Eagles.
Jets have a desperate record against Fab Flournoy’s men, losing nine of the last 10 meetings between the two old rivals.
And with Jets reeling from seven successive defeats while the Eagles are chasing the championship in third, Smith is well aware his players will have their work cut out.
The Jets head coach said: “They are one of the top teams in the league with no real weaknesses. They play excellent defence as a team, and they share the ball very well at the offensive end. This all works because they have an excellent leader on the floor in Fab Flournoy.”
Jets will be looking to gain revenge for their BBL Cup exit at the hands of the Eagles in October. A strong second half proved to be key as Eagles fought back from nine points down to win 112-92.
Smith said: “It was a game of significantly different halves last time. We played well in the first half but lacked the mental toughness to build a big lead and allowed them to stay close.
“In the second half they stepped up their intensity particularly at the defensive end and we did not respond. We will need to improve on our defensive intensity and execution on offence, particularly in the fourth quarter.”
Jets produced a fighting performance before losing 101-91 in the BBL Trophy against league leaders Everton Tigers on Sunday, and Smith was disappointed with their display in the final period.
“It was another close game where the opposition play harder and execute more effectively in the fourth quarter,” he said. “At the moment we don’t have a leader on the floor, we don’t have anyone who can ‘step up’ in the final quarter.”
Jets continue to be dogged by injury problems. Alto Virgil is struggling while Chez Marks and Frank Phifer are lacking match fitness but should be fit for Sunday.
The match tips off at 5.30pm and will be played at Jets’ second home, the Birchwood Centre in Warrington, rather than the Northgate Arena.