SWINDON Wildcats have put themselves in a commanding position to progress through to the National Cup final after beating Telford Tigers 7-4 in the semi-final first leg at the Link Centre on Thursday night.

Aaron Nell’s men had previously failed to beat the league leaders in three competitive attempts, but strikes from six different scorers altered that statistic in one of the Cats’ most important fixtures of the season so far.

Toms Rutkis and Edgars Bebris put the Cats two goals up early on before Nell ensured the hosts would enter the second period 3-1 up.

Telford came back to equalise in the middle period, only for the Cats to hammer home four goals in the final 20 minutes.

Max Birbraer kicked things off before Sam Bullas netted an important solo goal.

Telford pulled another back with 10 minutes to play, though further goals from Tyler VanKleef and Rutkis gave Swindon a three-goal lead to take with them to Shropshire in less than two weeks’ time.

Reacting to the win, Nell said it was important to beat Telford ahead of several more expected clashes before season’s end.

He said: “The main thing tonight was winning the game and beating Telford.

“They’ve beaten us three times this year, and we needed to beat them to try and get a bit of confidence.

“We couldn’t have asked for much more from the players tonight – it was an up-and-down game, but the way we came back in the third period is massive for us.

“You always want to win the first leg, but you never expect to be up by three, so we’re really happy.”

Despite the Cats having barely left their own ice pad following the thrilling win, attention had already turned to the second leg in Nell’s mind.

The Cats’ player-coach has warned his team they will have to play a smart game if they want to make it though to the final, despite the sizable advantage.

Nell said: “Telford are the best team in the league, and if there is one team that can bring this back, it’s them.

“We need to play smart when we go up there, and we need to go and try to win the game.

“Not trying to get through on aggregate, we need to try and win that other game.

“We couldn’t have put ourselves in a better spot, but it's important we play a solid game up there.”