PIRATES boss Neil Middleditch says his side “showed intent and proved that we mean business” for the Elite League play-offs, despite Belle Vue guaranteeing top spot last night.

The Aces earned the right to pick their play-off semi-final opponents after seeing off Poole 48-45 at the National Speedway Stadium.

But they may not fancy another showdown with the Pirates after the champions hit back to snatch a consolation league point. This means Poole could now secure second spot in the table with victory in their final regular Elite League meeting at King’s Lynn tonight.

No.1 Chris Holder maintained his fantastic form on 16 paid 17 points and star guest Rohan Tungate tallied a terrific 12.

But for a tapes exclusion for Krzysztof Buczkowski in heat three and an engine failure for Brady Kurtz in race 14, Poole may have triumphed in Manchester.

So whoever his Pirates are pitched against in the play-off semis on September 21 and 26, Middleditch is full of confidence.

He said: “I’m not overly disappointed not to finish top; I’ve got to be honest. It’s now down to Belle Vue to make the choice, and they have to make the right choice.

“If this was a play-off semi-final or final, I would be very happy to come back to Wimborne Road with just a three-point loss.

“If you look at the bad luck we had, Brady had an engine failure in his last ride, which cost us potentially two points and his bike was struggling in his second one. We had a little bit of bad luck, but that’s speedway.

“I can’t say I am disappointed because I’m not. We showed intent and proved that we mean business.”

Middleditch accepts Poole need a rock-solid team display in the play-offs after Buczkowski struggled to two paid three on his return from a wrist injury, while Kyle Newman collected three paid four and Adam Ellis failed to score.

“We have to step up,” Middleditch said. “The business end of the season is coming and we need 110 percent from everyone.

“Kyle didn’t have a great night and Buczkowski had the tapes exclusion, so there were things that could have gone our way, but didn’t.

“Adam was very disappointed. The new Belle Vue track is really big and it takes a toll on your engines. He found that to his cost, but he’ll bounce back I’m sure.”

Middleditch confirmed Danish star Hans Andersen looks set to miss the play-offs after undergoing wrist surgery, but he’s unsure whether Pirates owner Matt Ford will sign a last-minute replacement or draft in guests.

He said: “Hans had an operation on his hand on Friday, but I think he is very doubtful for the play-offs.

“I’ll talk to Matt today and see what he has in mind. I think he has spoken to some people, but I don’t know who they are at the moment.

“Whatever we do, Matt is very shrewd. He’ll pick horses for courses. Once we know who we’re going to face, we’ll make the decision then.”