READING Rockets (13-7) will be looking to bounce back from a pair of league defeats when they host a rejuvenated Essex and Herts Leopards (2-18) on Sunday afternoon (5pm) at Rivermead Leisure Complex.

Rockets were humbled at home last weekend as they were thrashed 110-78 by champions-elect Team Solent Kestrels, the league leaders making it 18 wins out of 18 games to put one hand on the NBL Division One trophy.

Leopards come to Rivermead fighting for their lives at the wrong end of the table, but with some key additional personnel – most notably former BBL players Orlan Jackman and Elvisi Dusha as well as Lithuanian Osvaldas Gaizauskas – added since the last encounter between the two teams back in December.

On that occasion, Rockets recorded a 98-82 road win in the National Cup quarter-finals.

However, Reading head coach Alan Keane is wary of the threat Essex pose and knows his team needs to be better in the coming weeks as the season reaches it’s climax.

The play-caller said: "Essex will be a much-changed outfit to the team we have played twice already this year, three if you include a pre-season game. We could also be described as much-changed, which highlights the impact AJ Carr's absence through a season ending injury has had on the team.

"Essex have done a great job supporting the team by signing three high calibre players, two of which have shined at BBL level for the past few years. Based on resent performances by Essex, including running close to an upset over Hemel, we know we have our work cut out for us this coming weekend.”

He continued: "Regardless of result,s we are coming off a run of disappointing performances this side of Christmas and currently we are looking more from inside the camp to be better than focus too much on who we are playing.

"Whoever we play, we still need to defend the ball better, help each other better, rebound better, take better shots and not just the first one, communicate better and ultimately commit better to every action on court."

Rockets go into Sunday’s game uncertain as to whether forward Ed Potter will be available. The 24-year-old sat out last Sunday’s loss to Team Solent with a knee complaint, but it is unknown how long he will be on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, Spanish duo Matias Boho and Pau Mayor came through their first game back together and look set to continue their return to fitness ahead of the visit of Essex.

Rockets will be hoping to come out of their mini-lump with six games of the NBL Division One season remaining, with only a couple of points separating the teams in third to seventh position and the fight for play-off positions intensifies.