AARON Nell is by no means surprised that clinical Telford Tigers sit top of the National League entering the traditionally busy festive period.

A 14-goal thriller between two of the UK’s second-tier title hopefuls ended in heartache for th Cats on Sunday as Telford registered an 8-6 victory on home ice despite trailing their visitors by two goals on more than one occasion.

Well-taken efforts at key moments put a dampener on what had been a positive weekend for the Link Centre outfit after Peterborough Phantoms were downed 6-4 in an entertaining tie in Wiltshire a day earlier.

The Tigers’ commitment and work rate impressed Nell most. And while Swindon now trail the Shropshire side by five points, with a game in hand, Nell is confident a positive run between now and the new year can spark some stability into the Cats’ turbulent run of late.

Player-coach Nell said: “Telford are very committed. They’re the hardest working team in the league at the moment – that’s why they’re getting results and why they’re putting themselves in a spot to be favourites entering the second half of the season.

“They’re consistent, and we let goals in at key times, which cost us in the end. There was a goal at the end of the first period, and four goals in five minutes at the end of the second really made a difference.

“Credit to Telford, they’re playing well and stringing together a lot of wins. We need to make sure we have a strong Christmas period to stay in touch with them.

“Christmas is always key. Last year it was when we turned our season around. We’ve had our best first half of the season for a decade.

“There are a lot of positives, so we must put Sunday’s loss behind us and pick up again for next week.”

The Cats return to action this weekend with an away double header – starting with a trip to Sheffield Steeldogs on Friday before Bracknell Bees host Nell’s side on Sunday.

The Steeldogs’ hit-and-miss form aside, Nell appreciates his roster will face a stiff task amid the hosts’ injury concern where a couple of key players are expected to remain sidelined through injury.

Nell said: “We were frustrated to let goals in at key times – and that was highlighted in the dressing room afterwards.

“It was a good game, but our discipline wasn’t great this weekend. But what has happened has happened, we’ve now got to bounce back.”