ESSEX Leopards player-coach Robert Youngblood is ready for his first final in his coaching career as the Big Cats prepare to face Tees Valley Mohawks in the National Trophy tomorrow.

Youngblood took over the Leopards hot-seat during the summer.

And he is thrilled to have taken the team to this weekend's showdown at the Braunstone Leisure Centre in Leicester “It’s absolutely fantastic to be in a final in my first year as a coach and I’m really happy to be given the opportunity to coach the Leopards” said Youngblood.

“I set out to put a good product on the floor who would compete night in, night out, and to have a good team who would contend and win things like they did last year.”

Leopards head in to the game sitting sixth in the EBL Division One standings, just one place lower than the Mohawks.

And Youngblood knows exactly what to expect from the Middlesbrough based side having already faced them twice this season “They’re a really good team. They’re guard orientated with three really good guards, but you can’t just key in those guys as they have Jamie Kohn who’s a beast on the board as well,” said Youngblood.

“If you gang up on the guards, he’s shown he’s a force to be reckoned with.

“They like to run the fast-break and they like an up and down game, so we have to slow them down.

“They’re well coached and well organised so we have to be ready for them.

“I’m sure that after a weekend of two losses they’ll be hungry for a win as well.

Leopards secured three trophies last season but failed to get their hands on the National Trophy.

And Youngblood is desperate to try and win in this weekend.

“Winning something in my first year as coach would be brilliant and having a title would be a pressure release as there are expectations when you coach a club who won the treble last season,” said Youngblood.

“Winning the one we didn’t get last year would be sweet and we've been working very hard in the build up to the game.

“We’ve had some good extra practice, working on our fitness as well as some plays.

“All the guys are getting recordings from last time we played Mohwaks to watch and I’ll be testing them to make sure they’ve watched it.”