TEAM manager Neil Middleditch will dedicate Monday’s SGB Premiership play-off semi-final first-leg to Pirates hero Darcy Ward.

The defending champions selected Ipswich as their last-four opponents, after finishing top of the regular league table with a 51-39 victory at King’s Lynn. 

And ahead of Poole’s showdown with the Witches at Wimborne Road (7.30pm), Middleditch paid tribute to Ward, whose career was ended by a crash when riding for Polish club Zielona Gora in 2015. 

He told the Daily Echo: “This will be my 43rd play-off meeting on Monday, with 43 obviously being Darcy’s number. Hopefully that’s an omen. 

“Forty-three, you couldn’t pick that could you? After 21 years of managing you come down to this meeting and the 43rd one, Darcy’s number, happens to be our home play-off. 

“I have been talking to Darcy, he watched the Ipswich match the other day. He was texting me and wished us all luck.”

Former world under-21 champion Ward is widely regarded as one of the most talented riders to feature for the Dorset club. 

Along with close friend Chris Holder, he was last year selected in Pirates’ magnificent seven to mark the club’s 70th anniversary. 

Ken Middleditch, Malcolm Simmons, Craig Boyce, Mark Loram and Tony Rickardsson completed the all-time dream septet, voted for by fans.