THREE middle-period goals put pay to any hopes Swindon Wildcats had of advancing to the South Cup final tonight, as they were defeated 9-8 on aggregate against Basingstoke Bison.

After losing the first leg 3-4 at the Link Centre on Saturday night, Wildcats entered tonight's semi-final second leg knowing a two-goal win was required to book a spot in the final.

George Norcliffe, Alex Sampford and Russ Cowley were on target for Bison on Saturday night while strikes for Luc Johnson, Jonas Hoog and Max Birbraer ensured Wildcats entered the second leg a goal behind.

On Sunday night, Nell’s roster conceded with 15 minutes played – consequently making Wildcats’ mountain that little bit harder to climb.

Tyler Plews reduced Cats’ aggregate deficit to one goal before markers from former Wildcats forward Adam Harding, Ashley Tait and Richard Bordowski appeared to put the game beyond the visitors’ reach with one period remaining.

In true Wildcats fashion though, the game was perfectly poised as goals for Max Birbraer, Jonas Hoog and Aaron Nell made the aggregate score 8-7 in favour of Bison with nine minutes remaining.

Experienced Ashley Tait stretched Bison’s lead back to two goals before Chris Jones’ goal in the final second of the game tied to result on the night, but concluded with Bison making progress to the final.

Player-coach Aaron Nell held no grudges against his men following the final buzzer, and instead rallied his troops to bounce back next weekend for the club’s league games against Bracknell and Peterborough.

He said: “One period cost us, in the second period we were poor.

“We had a lot of possession, but we just didn’t make it count - and they did.

“We left ourselves with too much to catch up on in the third period.

“We left it all out there, their netminder was excellent on Saturday night (in the first leg).

“Basingstoke deserved it, and I hope they win.

“We could’ve easily gone south, we now have 10 massive games coming up in the league -which is the big one.

“Our next four games will really test where we are going to be.

“It’s very frustrating, the second period did cost us. We’ve got to look forward to the league.”

Defeat means trophy hopes now firmly rest on Swindon’s league campaign – which resumes next weekend as Bracknell Bees travel to the Link Centre on Saturday (6.15pm) before Peterborough Phantoms entertain Nell’s men on Sunday.

Wildcats are unbeaten in the league this year, and Nell is aware that two further victories next weekend will further boost his side’s title-winning credentials.

He said: “Next weekend we are against two good teams, and we need to go and earn some tough points.

“We’ve put ourselves back into a position where we can challenge for the league, and we need to continue doing that.

“The support over the two games were great – for both us and the Wildcats.

“They were two great games, and Basingstoke deserved it.”