Pirates to sink?
Chris Holder's injury woes could cost Poole against Elite League rivals Swindon, says Kelvin Tatum.
Last Updated: 03/08/12 3:08pm
Poole and Swindon are the top two sides in the Elite League table and Monday's meet could be a dress rehearsal for the Grand Final.
Swindon had a nightmare 2011, finishing bottom of the division, but were very proactive in the off-season, changing six of their seven riders, and now have a strong line-up.
The second-placed Robins haven't always performed brilliantly as a team but they are now, with Hans Andersen growing in confidence and Troy Batchelor hitting some big scores.
Poole, meanwhile, are reigning Elite League champions and you have to give great credit to promoter Matt Ford for putting another powerful unit together.
Averages become an issue when you win a championship and the Pirates did lose Pole Adrian Miedzinski and talented Australian Davey Watt over the winter, so they have done well to remain competitive.
The host of rain-offs we have had means that both Swindon and Poole face a lot of meets in quick succession.
That gives both sides the chance to generate a lot of momentum, but the respective team managers will be praying that their star names can stay fit with so little recovery time.
Swindon will be confident going into Monday's clash, despite losing at Poole earlier this season, and will be able to call upon the ever-reliable Simon Stead.
Stead, who celebrates his testimonial with the Robins this month, is not an out-and-out number one rider, but he is crucial to the team.
He always comes in with a six-to-nine point score, is experienced, knows his job and is good at coming up with something when the chips are down.
Swindon's line-up will also include Jason Doyle, a man who knows what winning is all about, having grabbed the Elite League title with Poole last year.
Doyle can be a meeting winner as on his night he is capable of bettering some high-profile riders, while at 28 years of age, he is no longer overwhelmed by the occasion.
Poole's key men for their trip to Blunsdon will undoubtedly be Darcy Ward, who is top of the Elite League averages list, and Chris Holder.
Holder is a wonderful talent and I hope he is a speedway rider in England for the next 10 years or so, but he could be tempted away if he becomes Grand Prix champion.
The Australian sits fourth in this term's Grand Prix standings and he has the ability to dominate our sport, but he has been injured and may not be at his best on Monday.
Therefore, a lot could rest on Krzysztof Kasprzak.
The 27-year-old tends to get himself in trouble with the authorities and there have been some issues with his governing body in Poland. However, he is a proven performer and a great replacement for the departed Miedzinski.
Poole have also drafted in Leicester rider Linus Eklof to bolster their ranks and he has the potential to do a good job.
However, you are never quite sure how Premier League performers will fare in the higher division and Pirates chief Neil Middleditch will be hoping the Swede can hold his nerve on such a big night of speedway.
Middleditch and his counterpart, Swindon team manager Alun Rossiter, are good friends but they love beating each other and both will be desperate for victory on Monday.
I would expect the Robins to come out on top, though, considering they have the home advantage and the fact Poole star Holder will not be fully fit.