Reading prepare for their biggest meeting at Smallmead for over a decade when they take on the Swindon Robins on Monday night in the Elite League Championship play-off semi-final (7.30pm).

The race for the Elite League Championship now reaches the business end of the campaign, with Monday's clash between the Bulldogs and the Robins being a 'winner takes all', with the eventual victors going through to the Grand Final over the following two weeks.

It has been a superb achievement by Reading in their debut season back in British speedway's top-flight to get to this stage, but they will be hoping to go at least a stage further and get through to the big night and the two-legged final against either Peterborough or Coventry.

If they are to do that however, they must overcome a team that are bang in form and prior to last Monday's meeting at Peterborough, had won 12 of their previous 14 meetings. The Robins had looked all but out of the play-off race before that, but that run of results saw them eventually push both Reading and Peterborough for a top two spot going into the play-offs.

The Bulldogs hold the upper hand in their previous results against Swindon this season, having won both league fixtures at Smallmead and also the KO Cup encounter in April. Reading were also victorious in the away leg of the Cup tie and inflicted the Robins only home defeat in the league when they won 49-44 at Blunsdon in June in the Elite League 'A' fixture.

However, Swindon look a much difference proposition now as after the inspirational mid-season signing of Polish star Tomasz Chrzanowski, the Wiltshire club have picked up some impressive wins, including a 53-40 win over Reading last month at Blunsdon in the Elite League 'B' fixture.

With Reading having home advantage they will probably start the night as slight favourites to progress to the Grand Final, but nobody in the Bulldogs camp will be underestimating the Robins in what promises to be a mouth-watering contest between two very good teams.

With the exception of the continued absence of Andy Smith due to injury, Reading will be at full-strength for the visit of the Robins. Mark Lemon continues to cover for Smith at reserve. Team manager Jim Lynch does re-shuffle his riding order, which sees the profitable Greg Hancock and Travis McGowan pairing being reunited. The Bulldogs will likely stick with this same riding order for the remainder of the season.

Swindon track a full-strength team, which includes in-form Pole Tomasz Chrzanowski who has recovered from a bout of tonsillitis.

Bulldogs team manager Jim Lynch is excited by Monday's big local derby play-off clash: "Looking ahead to Monday's play-off tussle against Swindon I have to say that looks to be an absolute cracker. We have nothing to fear from any of the play-off teams, but we will treat them all with the utmost respect.

"This season has proved that whenever we have come off a bad result we have then bounced back in style straight away. If I was the Swindon or Peterborough boss I wouldn't be encouraged by our result at Belle Vue, I would be frightened.

"I'm sure our fans, who I must say have been brilliant this year, will turn out in force on Monday at Smallmead. I'm also sure they will get behind the team and create a great atmosphere and hopefully cheer us on to a place in the Grand Final.

"They deserve to have a team that they can call the best in the league and we want to give it to them.

"It promises to be a great night and a fantastic and enthralling meeting between two very good teams."

With a local derby on show and with so much at stake, a bumper crowd is expected at Smallmead on Monday, so the club have made arrangements for extra parking. Additional parking (security patrolled) will be available at Reading FC's Madejski Stadium, which is just a five minute walk from Smallmead Stadium.

Ticket prices for Sky Sports Elite League Play-Off Semi Final on Monday 25th September 2006 will be: Adults ?15, Kids U-15 ?5.

 

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