DANNY Ford believes tomorrow’s play-off opener against Scunthorpe Scorpions at Wimborne Road will be Poole Pirates’ “most important meeting” of the group phase.

Having topped the league phase of the regular SGB Championship season, Pirates got their pick of opponents for the play-offs.

They opted for sixth-placed Edinburgh Monarchs and Scunthorpe, who finished fourth.

Group B will see Oxford Cheetahs, Glasgow Tigers and Redcar Bears do battle.

After facing each other home and away, the top side from each group will progress into the final.

“This is where it matters,” promoter Ford told the Daily Echo, looking ahead to the play-offs.

“We’ve battled really hard all season to come top spot. We don’t want to trip up now.

“That’s the most important thing. The boys know what is expected of them, they’re all experienced riders.

“A good chunk of them have been with us for some time now, so they know what winning is about. This is when we come alive and hopefully we can press on.

“We had a good finish to the end of the season, won every single one of our seven meetings in August, so we’ve got the momentum on our side.”

He added: “It’s good to make life easier for ourselves, which we’ve done, with a choice of play-off group opponents, which is great. It could be a huge benefit for us.

“The boys have been absolutely fantastic all year and we’ve managed to achieve 35 points out of 40 in the league table, which just speaks volumes.

“Only two defeats on the road so far this season, unbeaten at home, so very proud. But now is when it really counts.”

Bournemouth Echo: Pirates overcame an early scare to beat Scunthorpe back in MayPirates overcame an early scare to beat Scunthorpe back in May (Image: Richard Crease)

Scunthorpe pushed Poole close at Wimborne Road in the regular season, Pirates coming from behind to emerge 49-41 victors, before then claiming a narrow 47-43 win at the Eddie Wright Raceway.

Discussing the selection of play-off opponents, Ford said: “It was a really difficult choice.

“We were always going to pick whoever finished sixth, whether that was Edinburgh or Birmingham. We just felt like that was potentially the easiest one, without sounding too disrespectful.

“But between Redcar and Scunthorpe it was really tough. We must’ve changed our minds half a dozen times.

“In the end, we just thought over two legs, we potentially have got the legs on Scunthorpe a bit more than we would on Redcar.

“Redcar have got riders who are very, very good at Poole.

“Scunthorpe obviously do have riders that are good at Poole, Ryan Douglas scored an 18-point maximum last time!

“But we just felt that over two meetings, we can get the better of Scunthorpe a little bit easier than we maybe could Redcar. Hopefully that pays off.”

He added: “They (Scunthorpe) are, out of all the teams, probably the underdogs.

“No-one has really spoken much about them because they’ve just been doing their job very, very quietly, picking up those points at home.

“I think we’re the only team to beat them at home this year in the league, so that just goes to show how strong they are at home. And they’ve got riders who can cause some real upsets around Poole.

“Obviously Ryan Douglas is the standout. He’s probably one of the top two riders in the league.

“But they’ve got Drew Kemp and Nathan Ablitt, who were our reserve duo last year.

“They’ve got the experience and they’ve got some other riders who can turn it on around our place.

“So we need to be at 100 per cent. I’ve got to be honest, I think this is potentially the biggest fixture for us of the group stage of the play-off, because we need to go out and really put this two-legged affair beyond any doubt.

“We need to go out and score heavily so that when we return to Scunthorpe, we’ve got a good advantage to pick up the aggregate bonus point.

“So it is, in my view, the most important meeting of the play-off group stages for us.”

After hosting Scunthorpe tomorrow (7.30pm), Pirates then welcome Edinburgh Monarchs next Wednesday before an away trip to the Scorpions (September 22), finishing at Armadale (September 29).

Pirates: Lawson, Rowe, B Cook, Z Cook, Worrall (c), Newman, Thompson.

Scunthorpe: Douglas, Lambert (c), Mountain, Allen, Palm Toft, Kemp, Ablitt.