THE glory days are rolling back for Bracknell Bees, writes Dave Wright.

A sensational performance at South One league winners Swindon Wildcats has taken them through to the South play-off final against Peterborough Phantoms this coming weekend, while also booking their ticket to the NIHL Final Fours weekend on April 13-14 in Coventry, where they will be joined by North finalists Hull Pirates and Sheffield Steeldogs.

Many years of disappointments will now be erased from memory after what happened last weekend.

Bees were held to a 2-2 draw in the home leg of their play-off semi-final last Saturday and few fans would not have fancied their chances too high going into the return less than 24 hours later.

But Doug Sheppard's men rose to the occasion in magnificent fashion, producing what must surely be their finest performance of the season to win 6-3 and complete an emphatic 8-5 demolition of a stunned Swindon side.

Has a victory over their arch-rivals ever tasted so good?

Bees could well have been holding something in reserve in the home leg, as they were certainly not at their sharpest.

They often dwelt so long on the puck and appeared reluctant to shoot, even when they were on power-play, which occurred four times in a goalless opening 20 minutes, including a five-on-three situation for just more than a minute.

Bees did eventually take the lead with an even-handed goal from Aidan Doughty in the 27th minute, only for Wildcats to take advantage of their first power play by equalising through Jonas Hoog just before the half-hour mark.

The visitors went ahead after 38 minutes with a goal from Chris Jones, but it was Renny Marr who continued to be the busier of the two net-minders although Dean Skinns did have to make a few decent stops at the other end.

Bracknell got their deserved equaliser in the 46th minute with Doughty again the scorer and Vanya Antonov providing his second assist of the game.

Ten minutes from time Bees did get the puck into the net again following a scramble, only to see the 'goal' ruled out as the posts had been dislodged, leaving the net at an angle.

They continued to press – outshooting Swindon 33-28 – but just could not beat Marr again.

But that quickly changed on Sunday with Bees racing into a two-goal lead inside the opening six minutes through Ryan Sutton and Shaun Thompson, and it was an advantage they never looked like relinquishing.

Wildcats did halve their deficit with a power-play goal from Hoog, only for Tyler Vankleef to restore the visitors' two-goal lead in the 17th minute.

Roman Malinik netted a fourth on power-play with 35 minutes gone, Thompson made it 5-2 in the 44th minute and just over three minutes later Sam Jones netted another power-play goal for the hosts.

With 64 seconds left on the clock, Marr was withdrawn and Malinik soon took advantage to slot the puck into the empty net to seal an outstanding win for the men in black and yellow.

Bees stage the first leg of the final this Saturday (6pm) with the return at Peterborough on Sunday (5.30pm).

l BEFORE the game last Saturday, Bracknell Bees Supporters Club handed over a cheque for more than £11,174 to the playing squad, following the sale of merchandise, 50/50 tickets and players' shirt tickets since early December.

It took the season's tally past £20,479 with more to come from last Saturday and this coming weekend's matches at The Hive.

"It's fantastic work from the supporters club," said head coach Doug Sheppard. "A lot of hard work and tireless effort has been put into that, and it is much appreciated."