Poole Pirates won't under-estimate Lakeside as playoffs get underway
The Poole Pirates will not be under-estimating their opponents as they gear up to face Lakeside in their first playoff meeting tonight.
The reigning Elite League champions topped the league table this season, and face The Lakeside Hammers in the first leg of the playoff semi finals - assuming conditions are good enough to see racing.
The Pirates are favourites to advance to the grand final, after finishing 28 points ahead of their Essex opponents after the league campaign. However, it is tonight's clash and the return leg next Monday that will prove decisive.
Poole team manager Neil Middleditch said: "We go to Lakeside with the scores all level, league positions count for nothing.
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"Of course we still have the target on our backs having finished at the top of the table and that of course makes us favourites. On the other hand that works in Lakeside's favour to an extent as they have nothing to lose.
"They have endured a very difficult season, having had to overcome the tragic loss of Lee Richardson, which is still raw in all our hearts. It has to be said that they have performed commendably and fully deserve their place in the playoffs."
Impressive teenage rider Piotr Pawlicki is set to return to the Poole line-up after missing the Dorset side's last league meeting against Birmingham with a shoulder injury.
Lakeside will be without influential captain Davey Watt. The former Pirates rider was rushed to hospital with complications to a kidney problem in the early hours of this morning.
The Pirates have enjoyed visiting Essex this season, having already picked up two victories at Purfleet.
"There is a very professional job to be done" added Middleditch.
"We are a hungry club when it comes to hunting silverware but our single focus will be getting through this semi-final over the next two Mondays so that we reach the final."