STAND-IN team manager Danny Ford labelled Joe Thompson as the “big difference” in Poole Pirates’ crucial play-off victory at Scunthorpe Scorpions.

Defeat at Eddie Wright Raceway would have all but ended Pirates’ hopes of a third successive SGB Championship title.

And things got off to a nightmare start, Anders Rowe ruled out of the meeting after crashing out of heat one. He was taken to hospital to be checked and suffered concussion, but thankfully no further lasting damage.

The 21-year-old will, however, be subsequently ruled out of both meetings with Edinburgh Monarchs this week, due to concussion protocols.

Pirates now know one win from those two upcoming clashes with the Monarchs will guarantee a spot in the grand final.

Reflecting on the 50-40 win at Scunthorpe on Friday, promoter Ford said: “The boys did so great.

“Losing Anders in heat one was a massive blow, it really was and to be honest I was thinking to myself that we didn't just have a hill to climb now but a huge mountain and when Anders was excluded from the heat despite being the innocent party.

“I just felt we were on the back foot. But the boys really dug deep and the full six remaining members were absolutely sensational as a team.”

Steve Worrall (12+1) and Richard Lawson (11) top scored, but it was the performance of reserve Joe Thompson which caught the eye.

The teenager scored 7+3 from six rides, finishing ahead of the likes of Drew Kemp and Michael Palm Toft along the way.

“Normally with team performances like that I wouldn't pick a single rider out,” said Ford.

“But I am going to make an exception, as Joe was the big difference.

“I thought the reserves made the difference for Scunthorpe in the first leg at Poole and (on Friday) the true difference in the sides were the reserves.

“Joe in particular was absolutely fantastic.

“He was very good out of the starts, he was aggressive and we got him really fired up.

“He is generally a quiet lad but I think he is really enjoying the environment with Poole and long may that continue."