STEFAN Nielsen's season with Poole Pirates could be over due to injury.

Nielsen crashed out during the first heat of Pirates' SGB Championship meeting at Birmingham Brummies last night.

After colliding with opponent Valentin Grobauer, Nielsen fell heavily, sustaining injuries which saw him taken to hospital, where he remained overnight.

Without their reserve, Poole suffered a 49-41 defeat at Perry Barr Stadium. They remain top of the table heading into the business end of the campaign, but it seems they will have to tackle the remainder of the campaign without consistent performer Nielsen.

Asked for an update on Nielsen's condition, Pirates promoter Danny Ford told the Daily Echo: "It looks like a broken collarbone, punctured lung, broken ribs obviously and he’s got a problem with his back, so he’s going in for a scan to see what’s up with that.

"So it’s not a small injury by any means.

"It looks like he’ll miss the rest of the season, but you never know with these speedway riders. They can miraculously recover a little bit quicker than us mere mortals."

Ford added: "The track was really heavy at the start of the meeting. It caught Stef out.

"Basically coming out of bend two, he just couldn’t turn and went into Valentin Grobauer and then into the fence and just sustained those injuries unfortunately."

Bournemouth Echo:

Discussing's Nielsen's importance this season, Ford said: "He’s been having the season of his life really for both us and for Sheffield. Devastated for him.

"He’s just dropped down to reserve, which is something with the way the team is built, we’d always have a strong reserve.

"Now with Stef out, he’s almost irreplaceable. Especially on his average and at home we know he’s worth seven points rather than the four-and-a-half average he’s on.

"We’re not going to be able to cover that entirely at all, and we know that, and it’s going to make things a lot more difficult for us.

"Especially when we’re looking to push into the play-offs. It’s going to make things a hell of a lot more difficult now."

Poole were forced down to just five riders following Nielsen's withdrawal at Perry Barr, already operating rider replacement for the unavailable Benjamin Basso.

There was a delay of around an hour while Nielsen was attended to and track work was completed.

And Ford admits there was concerns about the track condition before the meeting had even begun.

"Of course we’re frustrated," he said.

"The boys were frustrated even before the first heat. So we went out for the first heat and our fears came to a realisation when Stef took that tumble.

"We wouldn’t have carried on if there hadn’t been further track work and there was. It got it to a rideable stage and thankfully there was no further injuries."

Five-man Pirates battled hard to stay right in the meeting until the final two heats, when Birmingham pulled clear for victory, denying the visitors a consolation point as the night took its toll.

Ford said: "It was a really difficult evening for us all round.

"The track was very difficult and the conditions were difficult.

"We had Danyon (Hume) having to take seven rides and it was a track where you really had to fight the bike and hold on for your life, so he was absolutely knackered after his first couple of heats, which reflected in his score.

"It was frustrating. Obviously we had three heats where we had a single rider heading out.

"And the boys did really, really well to try and make up for it. But with the track conditions being as they were, it was a really, really difficult ride.

"You had to really fight the bike and it took its toll on Danyon and Ben (Cook) in particular. They were absolute knackered after a while.

"I can’t knock the boys for effort. They all tried their best and we just came up a little bit short and hopefully we can bounce back from this tomorrow."

Pirates host Glasgow Tigers at Wimborne Road tomorrow evening (7.30pm). They will welcome Basso back into their septet, while a search is now on for a last-minute guest in place of Nielsen.