PLAYER-COACH Aaron Nell admits his Swindon Wildcats side have made hard work for themselves if they want to finish top of the NIHL South One table at the end of the season after slipping to a third successive defeat in the competition on Sunday night.

The Cats won five of their first six league fixtures in 2017-18 but have since gone off the boil, losing home and away matches to leaders Peterborough Phantoms as well as on the road at Streatham.

Nell’s troops have remained in dominant form in cup matches, however, winning all eight of their games in the NIHL Cup and Autumn Trophy.

Swindon’s latest league loss against Peterborough at the weekend – a 5-4 reverse at the Link Centre – leaves them down in fourth place in the table, seven points adrift of the Phantoms.

The Cats’ fellow former English Premier League sides, Bracknell Bees and Basingstoke Bison, occupy the two places immediately above them and Nell concedes his team are in the unwanted position of having to play catch-up in their bid to finish as league leaders come March.

“We have got a lot of games coming up and we need to go on another little run. When you drop points, you just make it a lot more difficult for yourself,” said Nell.

“We are going to have to go to Peterborough and get a win when we play them in December, and go to Basingstoke and get a couple of wins there, and go to Bracknell and get wins there.

“It’s very early still days but you make it very difficult for yourself when you drop points and that’s what we have done.

“All we can do is learn from it, work harder and get better.”

Nell felt it was sloppy errors that ultimately cost his side on home ice against Peterborough, so the Cats coach is desperate to eradicate those from their game.

“We are very close to getting it right, we know that, but the big thing is the mistakes that lead to goals,” said Nell.

“On Sunday, it was one mistake that led to three of the goals, but normally there is a second, third or fourth mistake.

“We have got to learn that with 10 minutes to go in the third period, we can’t be making the mistakes we made on Sunday.”

Young forward Toms Rutkis was in attendance at the Link Centre on Sunday having been restricted to just two appearances this season due to injury and Nell hopes to see him back playing in Cats colours before the turn of the year.

He said: “Toms is getting close. I don’t know exactly how long it is going to be but hopefully he will be back before Christmas.”