BEN Hopwood’s Pirates future might be up in the air but team manager Neil Middleditch believes the reserve has at least taken the right steps towards ensuring a prolonged stay.

The final meeting of Hopwood’s one-month spell at Wimborne Road was the abandoned fixture against Wolverhampton on Wednesday and now Poole promoter Matt Ford must decide whether to stick with the 23-year-old or explore other fast track options.

Hopwood might have endured a difficult start to life in the skull and crossbones since replacing Lee Smart, but the Stoke Potters charger has earned the support of Middleditch for his efforts.

The team boss told the Daily Echo: “It’s been tough for Ben to come in and by his own standards he’s been a bit disappointed with his form.

“He needed an engine that was going to get him out of the starts and I know he had a new engine for the abandoned meeting against Wolverhampton. The one race he did, he looked very good on it.

“Confidence is a big thing as well and he said that after one race he felt better and his engine felt better, so that’s a step forward.

“He’s certainly not sitting back and accepting things. He’s still trying to make things good and I know he wants to stay in the team.

“If a rider’s keen to do that and invest in equipment then you’ve got to give the kid a chance.”

Hopwood is currently ranked 21st out of the 35 fast track riders and any replacement would have to be below the former Isle of Wight racer in the rankings, as well as eligible for a full-time position.

That leaves Poole with limited options and Middleditch admitted he found British speedway’s new reserve system to be a penalising setup.

He added: “If any team wants to replace a reserve they have to go below what they have and there isn’t a huge amount of riders out there to pick from.

“In times gone by, if you had a rider out of form, you changed it by getting a rider of equal ability. Now, you can’t because you get punished - you get a rider of lesser ability.

“It’s a very tough thing to do. There are teams out there with super reserves and they are not going to get beaten, that’s for sure.

“It could very likely come down to fast track reserves as to who wins the league.”