THE Basingstoke Bison slipped to third in the English Premier League table after losing 5-2 away at title rivals the Manchester Phoenix last night.

After a 15-minute delay caused by a broken plexi panel, the Bison took the lead at 10:30, Tomas Karpov and Ciaran Long combining to set up Andy Melachrino for the game-opener.

However, the hosts hit back immediately. Ben Wood levelled the game with a great strike from the blue line, Frantisek Bakrlik and Robin Kovar getting the assists at 11:24.

Manchester then turned the game on its head 30 seconds later, Bakrlik beating Dean Skinns to make it 2-1 at the first buzzer.

The Phoenix dominated the second period but Skinns stood up to the onslaught, keeping out a barrage of shots. However, he was beaten twice, Luke Boothroyd getting them both.

The Manchester captain made it 3-1 at 22:54, assisted by James Archer and Tony Hand, while Hand and Schnabel got the helpers for the home side’s fourth goal, scored on the powerplay at 31:30.

The Phoenix thought they had a fifth when Bakrlik found the net, but the goal was ruled out due to an injury to Skinns. The second period break was taken 1:17 early to allow the Bison netminder to receive treatment on his leg, but he was able to return to the ice.

Karpov pulled a goal back with 24 seconds remaining in the second period and the Bison pressed in the final session. They enjoyed a long spell with a five on three advantage but were unable to beat Stephen Fone and the Phoenix scored the only goal of the third period, James Archer making it 5-2 assisted by Jack Watkins and Richard Bentham.

The result saw the Phoenix leapfrog the Bison into second place, one point behind leaders the Guildford Flames.