SWINDON Wildcats head coach Ryan Aldridge paid tribute to his match-winner Jan Kostal after he fired the Link Centre side into the EPL play-off finals weekend.
The former Czech Republic international scored a penalty with less than 30 seconds on the clock to seal a 3-1 victory for Cats over Milton Keynes Lightning in this quarter-final clash at the Skydome.
The win in Coventry, where Cats will return next Saturday for their semi-final, also saw Swindon overturn a 3-2 deficit from the first leg.
Kostal also played a part in setting up the opening two goals for Aaron Nell and Henri Sandvik in the final period as Cats secured a 5-4 aggregate success.
“As soon as I saw (the Kostal trip) it had to be a penalty shot, the officials called it right,” Aldridge said. “I thought that he took it really well.
“He was outstanding in all areas and deserved a goal to finish with - he was huge.
“Jan is a leader and signing him (for next season) early was key, he is guy I want to be around for a long, long time.”
Stevie Lyle also put in a man-of-the-match display at the Skydome and the longer the game went on, Aldridge was convinced that it would be his side who would prevail.
“We were just concentrating on winning the game, not necessarily by two goals, take it into overtime and see what happens,” he said.
“The longer it was goalless the more it was in our favour, because we had Stevie Lyle - he was absolutely fantastic tonight - and we have a team that will score at least once every game.”
With the finals weekend in Coventry starting next Saturday, Aldridge is not beginning to dream of making Sunday’s finale just yet.
Swindon, however, will be without the services of forward Sam Bullas after he injured his ankle in the first leg but Aldridge will have Ollie Betteridge returning from Great Britain Under 18s duty.
“Bully is going to have an x-ray, he tried to put his boot on and was struggling,” Cats head coach said.
“I think that we missed Ollie in the first leg, we missed his energy, it will be good for him and for us to get him playing and winning again.
“Last night we knew that we didn’t play that great, we had to put it behind us and not hit any panic buttons, regroup.
“We didn’t play our best in the first period and there were a few choice words said during the break, which I didn’t want to do, but it was needed. We responded well and got the result.
“Can we win it? Let’s concentrate on winning the semi-final first.”