In-depth focus on King’s Lynn Stars’ Elite League play-off picture

Robert Lambert won heat four. Picture: Ian Burt

Robert Lambert won heat four. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

The top-flight's end-of-season shoot-out for glory could be decided before a wheel is even turned in anger.

Poole Pirates, King's Lynn Stars and Coventry Bees all have major injury issues going into the two-legged semi-finals – which start on Monday. And with all three clubs likely to be without key men, their ability to entice quality quests could make all of the difference.

It's no surprise that Swindon Robins – in form and at full strength – are the bookies' favourites to lift the Elite League trophy. So much will rest on their play-off rivals' ability to boost their squads if anyone is going to stand in the way of Alun Rossiter's side picking up a second title in three years.

The Stars face champions Poole in their semi-final and will definitely be without Niels-Kristian Iversen. His absence is a huge blow and if Kenneth Bjerre fails to recover from a shoulder problem the Stars are going to need a minor miracle – or two amazing replacements – to push the Pirates, who have fitness problems of their own, all the way.

The problem is boss Rob Lyon can only call upon riders from Belle Vue, Eastbourne, Wolverhampton, Lakeside and Leicester. So that rules out the selection of Coventry's Hans Andersen who top-scored in Lynn colours during their 48-42 defeat at Belle Vue. He'll be taking on Swindon when Lynn host their last-four opponents.

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Pirates promoter Matt Ford chose Lynn after his side finished top of the pile. Yet he still holds all the cards with a seemingly endless pot of money to dip into. If Poole can entice Matej Zagar to fill the void left by the suspended Darcy Ward, then the Stars will be really up against it. They may operate rider-replacement instead, as Lynn could with Iversen, but they've already started well by replacing the injured Josh Grajczonek with Craig Cook.

Lyon clearly has a difficult few days ahead – with the support of owner Buster Chapman – to make his stretched outfit as strong as possible. But for now, the return of Grand Prix ace Bjerre would be a good start as Lynn seek to pip Poole to a place in the grand final.

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