TICKET sales for Swindon Wildcats’ home leg of their NIHL South One play-off semi-final against Bracknell Bees continue to soar, with general manager Steve Nell expecting 1,300 fans at the Link Centre on Sunday night (4.15pm).

Wildcats head to the John Nike Leisure Complex tonight for the first leg before the return fixture takes place tomorrow.

A place in the national finals at Coventry is on offer for the aggregate winner, and Aaron Nell’s side will be keen to make up for the heartache of last season’s controversial semi-final loss to Peterborough.

General manager Nell reported strong ticket sales for Sunday’s crunch second-leg, adding that the increasing popularity of Cats’ youth system is having a positive knock-on effect with regards to attendance levels.

“We’ve had crowds of 1,200 to 1,300 – and it’s going to be another busy one this weekend,” said Nell.

“Bracknell will bring some fans too, I’d expect at least 1,200 if not 1,300 for Sunday’s game.

“We’ve got more than 200 kids in the junior programme now, they’re aged between four and 17.

“That’s a big number for a town like Swindon, we’re competing and outdoing teams like Sheffield and Nottingham – who traditionally have big development teams.

“But we’ve built it up.

“What we’re doing in the community is paying dividends, and everything is coming together nicely.”

The conclusion of this season’s play-offs will mark the end of NIHL hockey under its current structure.

A 10-team national league is being formed for the 2019-20 season, with one key aim being to increase competitiveness between teams.

Last week, Wildcats defeated Invicta 24-5 on aggregate to secure their place in the semi-finals.

But Nell admitted viewing was far from spectacular throughout the two legs, and hopes the new structure will eliminate one of this season’s key issues.

He said: “(The new structure) is brilliant for us, brilliant for the league and the sport in general.

“To have 10 teams in the national league is something we’ve wanted to get back to. It’s all falling into place now.

“The playing structure hasn’t been decided yet, but it’s all positive.

“For the fans, we will have a lot of competitive games and you won’t know if we’re going to win or lose on any night.

“For sport, that is what you need. You don’t want a team to turn up and know they’re going to win.”