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Sunday
2 April, 3:00pm

NDL

Mildenhall
Fen Tigers
v
Kent
Royals

On Sunday (24th. April) it’s National Development League Knock Out Cup [KOC] action at Mildenhall Speedway – proudly sponsored by Manchetts Rescue and Recovery. And it promises to be a right, er, Royal ding dong as the visiting side are third tier newcomers this term, the Kent Royals. 

A side of the same name competed in the NDL last year. of course, but that was the second side of the Central Park, Sittingbourne-based Kent Kings  - sadly that stadium has been lost to the sport and emerging to take up the slack in the Garden of England is a team riding out of the long-established training track in Iwade.  

In fact, matches between sides from Iwade and Mildenhall date all the way back to the early 1970s, but this will be the first time West Row has welcomed a team from the Old Gun Site in Swale (uniquely the Iwade club operates on a circuit built on a wartime anti-aircraft artillery site), since the Sittingbourne Crusaders had a brief spell in League Speedway back in the early noughties. 

The Mildenhall septet looking to shoot down the Royals on Sunday will welcome into their ranks Jack Kingston, whose signing has been ratified by the sport’s governing body, the BSPL. Jack is one of three Essex-based riders in the Fen Tigers’ side this term and will be hoping to make the sort of impact his county compatriots made in the warm up match against Polultec Select last week – when debutant Alex Spooner was many people’s Man of the Meeting and Jason Edwards scored an impeccable five ride, 15 points full maximum.

For Sam Bebee, Sunday is a landmark occasion – the 21-year-old competing in his 50th. match for the Fen Tigers; while for fellow Norfolk-based rider, Ryan Kinsley, it’s a match-up against the club name he skippered in the NDL last season, albeit that the only link remains the Team Manager of the Royals, the experienced John Sampford.  

Fen Tigers’ reserve, Josh Warren was a 2021 Kent Royal also and he partners another of the men of the moment in the Mildenhall team, Luke Muff whose paid double figures score last Sunday was a real stand-out moment.

The Royals have at number one a former Mildenhall favourite in Alfie Bowtell.  The rider from Chelmsford rode for the Fen Tigers back in 2016 and has gone on to finish runner up in the Division’s Riders’ Championship when an Isle of Wight Warrior in 2018.  The rider who denied him that win (in fact Bowtell cruelly fell when actually leading in the run-off for the title) is Ben Morley and the pair, Warriors both then, are reunited in this 2022 Royals’ side. 

For Morley (yet another Essex-based rider on display on Sunday), that 2018 NLRC win was his career second  - the first won as a Kent King in 2015.  And in case home fans think they’ve seen a lot of the Southend-born rider over the years, they’d be right – as this will be a record breaking 24th. appearance as a visiting rider; more than anyone in the 47-year history of league racing at West Row!

Forming another link with both the Isle of Wight and Central Park is the Royals’ skipper, Danno Verge. London-born Verge was a Kent King before a spell with the Fen Tigers (a member of the National Trophy-winning side in 2017) and now is domiciled on the Isle of Wight, which was his last league side, before spending the last two campaigns restricted to that club’s amateur events in Ryde. 

Also regularly appearing at the IOW’s Smallbrook track in that period was Chris Watts – for whom 2022 is his first year riding at NDL level.  Hailing from Ashford in Kent, Watts is the real local man in the Royals’ side and last season captained the Crayford Kestrels amateur team who ride at the county’s other training track in Lydd.

Completing the visitors’ line up are Sam Woolley, Jamie Halder and Joe Alcock.  Woolley is the younger of the two Derbyshire-born siblings who started out with their home county club, Buxton Hitmen.  Last season was something of a breakthrough for Sam, impressing with the Belle Vue Colts.  Halder comes from further north still, in North Yorkshire indeed, though before this year the NDL appearances he has made have been in the Midlands, with Coventry and Leicester.  2021 was almost a complete write off for Halder who broke his ankle early on in the campaign.

Halder and Watts’ debut for the Royals down at highly-fancied Plymouth last month saw the Kent side pick up the notable scalp of the Centurions (a result which surprised nearly everyone in the sport); and pivotal to that unlikely success was a 10 points score by Joe Alcock, who hails from the Potteries and started out at now defunct Stoke.

That win certainly will have stoked up John Sampford’s charges, but equally has flagged up to the Mildenhall management that the Royals are not to be underestimated.  With a place against either Berwick Bullets or KOC holders Leicester Lion Cubs awaiting the winners of this two-legged semi-final (the second leg being the following Sunday, on 1st, May at the Old Gun Site), the mission on Sunday for the Fen Tigers is clear – as skipper Ryan Kinsley sums it up,

“It’s going to be vital to build up as big a lead as possible in the first leg.  Iwade will be a track some of our lads know well,  but will be less known to others and so we want to go there with as big a leading margin as possible. With Jason on fire and the other lads all going well in our first match, we will be aiming on Sunday for no last places and to build a strong lead”.

The action gets underway at 3pm (gates opening at 1.30pm) on Sunday 24th. April at Mildenhall Speedway, Hayland Drove, West Row, Mildenhall, Suffolk, IP28 8QU.