SWINDON Wildcats emerged from the first leg of their NIHL South One play-off semi-final against Bracknell Bees with a 2-2 draw, effectively turning Sunday’s second leg into a winner takes all one-off match.

Aaron Nell’s side travelled to the fourth-place team on Saturday evening hoping to create a lead that they could take back home and give them sort of cushion.

However, a goalless first period allowed Bracknell to grow in confidence and they went on to take the lead through dangerman Aidan Doughty shortly into the second period.

The Cats were level minutes later though as Jonas Hoog took advantage during a visitor powerplay to fire Nell’s team level.

And a little over a minute before the second buzzer sounded, Chris Jones snapped home a shot to put the Cats in front.

A precious one-goal lead would have felt momentous for Nell’s team, however, five minutes into the final 20 minutes, Doughty grabbed his and his team’s second to give the Bees a real chance at progressing to Coventry.

After the game, Nell insisted he was happy with the result from the first leg and is backing his team’s class at home to shine through in Sunday’s return leg.

He said: “I’m very happy with that. I thought it was a great game between two teams where the effort was definitely there tonight.

“We would have always taken this result tonight, but we’ve got to go home now and put in a big performance.

“We’ve been a good home team for a long time and what we’ve got to do is refocus and try and play our best game (on Sunday).”

Central to the Cats emerging with a result was their strength on defence.

Nell’s team killed six of the seven powerplays they were faced with on a night where defensive ill-discipline could have proved costly.

Championing his team’s ability to put their bodies on the line, Nell said: “I thought it (the penalty kill) was excellent tonight.

“We killed four in the first period, two in the second and ok, they scored in the third, but we were very good.

“Going to five on three after a minute and a half wasn’t part of the plan, but to kill that off was key.

“The players were fantastic (defensively) tonight. Many a block and Renny was very, very good too.

“The commitment from both teams was very high tonight. It was a very good game and it leaves it well-balanced for (Sunday).”