A SPOT in the National Cup final is up for grabs this evening as Swindon Wildcats head to Shropshire looking to defend a three-goal lead established a fortnight ago in the first leg of their two-legged semi-final tie against Telford Tigers.

The re-branded competition, which Wildcats effectively won two seasons ago, is very much on player-coach Aaron Nell’s radar in addition to his roster’s ambitions to secure the National League title – a division that has quickly turned into a two horse race between Cats and tonight’s opponents.

Tigers enter the game off the back of a confidence crushing couple of weeks – the former runaway league leaders have lost three games on the spin to Hull (twice) and Leeds Chiefs in that period.

Those defeats have allowed Wildcats to cut the gap between themselves and Tigers at the top of the National League table to just four points.

But different rewards are on the line this evening as Wildcats lead 7-4 on aggregate ahead of puck-drop.

Nell said: “We were very happy to get the three-goal lead, though we know there is still a long way to go.

“If there is one team that can bring back a three-goal lead then it’s certainly Telford.

“We need to be smart and play well defensively. When we do that, we know that we can be a very dangerous team offensively.

“If we’re all switched on and buy into playing a good defensive game then we stand a good chance.”

Tigers were actually level with Swindon after the middle period of the first leg, but goals for Max Birbraer, Sam Bullas, Tyler VanKleef and Toms Rutkis put the Link Centre outfit firmly in charge of this two-legged tie.

Nell took a great deal of satisfaction from his squad’s fight and determination in the first leg, and hopes it translates naturally into the second leg this evening.

Though he has every reason to be cautious of his players' trait to switch off, particularly given Sunday's dramatic overtime win against Leeds Chiefs - a game Wildcats led by three goals entering the final period.

He added: “It’s a massive game for both teams as well as the players and the fans.

“What we’ve got to do is enjoy the occasion – I was chuffed with our performance in the final period of the third leg where we relaxed and enjoyed ourselves. We played as a group and got our rewards.

“We put ourselves in a great position on Sunday (in the National League, against Leeds) and I wasn’t happy that the game ended up going to overtime.

“I said to the players before the game that earning two points was the most important thing for us to do and avoid injuries and suspensions.

“We did all three of those things, but we can learn from the game. We want to forget about the third period.”