PIRATES chief Matt Ford insisted he had secured the “best possible replacement” after Darcy Ward was dramatically ruled out of the grand final.

Ford booked guest Niels-Kristian Iversen for tonight’s showpiece after Ward had been hospitalised following an incident outside a Dorset pub.

Poole promoter Ford reported that Ward, who underwent a brain scan, was expected to be discharged today but would not be fit to face Swindon.

The absence of Pirates’ number one rider comes as a major blow to the defending champions in their bid to overturn a seven-point deficit from the Elite League final first leg at Blunsdon.

However, Ford is hopeful Iversen can show the sort of form that saw him qualify for next year’s Grand Prix series.

He told the Daily Echo: “Darcy is out and I have booked Niels-Kristian Iversen. At this point in time, we still don’t know much other than the fact he is still in hospital and he is due to come out this morning.

“But we don’t think it is right that he should be riding that quickly so Niels-Kristian is riding and he is also on standby for the Knockout Cup on Wednesday and Thursday.

“We have got the best replacement possible in Niels-Kristian, who has been in incredibly good form.

“By his own merits, he has qualified for the Grand Prix, second to our own Krzysztof Kasprzak in the Grand Prix Challenge. He came second to Chris Holder in the Elite League Riders’ Championship and, in my opinion, probably together with Jason Doyle and one or two others, he is one of the most improved riders of the season.”

Alun Rossiter’s Robins will now start as warm favourites to claim the Elite League title.

Ford added: “While Alun takes some stick from the locals, I can guarantee he doesn’t want to win anything by default.

“If Swindon are set to win the trophy, then he wants to do it the right way and it is always disappointing when the opposing number one is put out of a meeting through circumstances like this.”

Meanwhile, Ford last night moved to reassure Pirates supporters over fears Holder could also be ruled out through injury.

The world champion hurt his foot yesterday while racing for his Polish club Torun in Zielona Gora but Ford said: “I have spoken to him and he will be okay. He phoned me and I don’t think there is going to be any major drama.”

Poole: Niels-Kristian Iversen, Ricky Kling, Chris Holder, Rider Replacement for Piotr Pawlicki, Krzysztof Kasprzak, Ludvig Lindgren, Linus Eklof.

Swindon: Hans Andersen, Nick Morris, Peter Kildemand, Simon Stead, Troy Batchelor, Dawid Lampart, Seb Alden.

  • Pirates’ world champion Holder added the Elite League Riders’ Championship title to his trophy cabinet on Saturday.

The Pirates captain defeated Iversen and Chris Harris in the final after defending champion Rory Schlein had twice crashed in the last race.

Sam Masters finished 10th overall with six points after replacing Ward.