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Sunday 26 June
3:00pm

NDL

Mildenhall
Fen Tigers

v

Leicester
Lion Cubs

A solid team performance from the Mildenhall Speedway side – proudly sponsored by Manchetts Rescue and Recovery – on Sunday (24/4) saw the Fen Tigers take a 12 points first leg advantage from this National Development League Knock-out Cup semi-final tie.

The encounter with league newcomers, the Iwade-based Kent Royals was nip and tuck for the opening half, but a hastily convened team meeting in the grading break after heat eight reaped major benefits, turning a four points lead into a 14 points advantage with one race remaining. A 2-4 reverse in the nominated riders’ race saw that lowered to a round dozen and that’s the lead being taken forward into the second leg on 1st. May.

That the second leg wouldn’t need a May Day warning message looked in some doubt in the opening stanza, though – when despite a perfect opening salvo of a 5-1 from skipper Ryan Kinsley and Man of the Match, Sam Bebee in heat one, the lead was wiped out  by heat five – seeing the sides locked together at 15-15.

There had been controversy in heat four. Entering the second bend of lap three, third-placed Sam Woolley (who’d won heat two for the visitors) fell when unchallenged. The back marker, Mildenhall’s Luke Muff, perhaps distracted by the faller in front of him, came down behind Woolley. Both riders attempted to remount, but with the ultra-fast combat between Kent’s Ben Morley and the homester’s Jason Edwards out in front, there was never going to be any option other than for the referee to press the red stoppage lights button.

There was incredulity among the home supporters in the large crowd when the decision was solely to exclude Muff as “the cause of the stoppage” – Woolley may have remounted fractionally quicker but not quick enough to prevent the stoppage and, as the initial faller, it seemed extraordinary that Woolley didn’t at least join Muff on the disqualification list.

That awarded 2-4 was repeated in the next race due to another fall. Fen Tigers’ debutant, was having a battle royale with the visitors’ Jamie Halder, with the Essex-based Kingston holding a slim advantage when he fell on the final lap. Out front, Kent’s number one, the former Fen Tiger Alfie Bowtell (who’d had fuel supply problems in his opening ride) was well clear of Alex Spooner and suddenly the hosts’ advantage was gone.

Three successive race wins from Fen Tigers steadied the ship – two from Bebee, notably beating twice League Riders’ Champion Morley in heat six; sandwiched in between, Edwards got back to winning ways brilliantly coming from behind to take the impressive Joe Alcock.

A break for track works on a sunny afternoon with dusty conditions always a possibility, allowed joint Team Managers Malcolm Vasey and Jason Gardner a chance to address their troops.  Four points was a lead, but needed improving on in the remaining part of this crucial first leg and the words spoken and thoughts shared reaped rewards with a second 5-1 of the match courtesy of Bebee (completing a paid maximum from his four programmed rides) and Kinsley in heat 10; and then Edwards, getting up unscathed from a nasty looking tumble when Halder fell in front of him in the first staging, beating Bowtell in an absolute thriller in the rerun.

Two further heat advantages followed to take the lead out to 14 points. Kingston and Muff were lightning out of the gate in heat 12. Jack was to storm to his first race win at this level since his premature retirement back in 2016, whilst Muff held out until the third lap before the visitors’ captain, Danno Verge, pointless up to this point on his return to West Row, worked his way past.  

It was Josh Warren’s time to come to the party in heat 14, gating swiftly and holding off the challenge of Alcock to take his total on his competitive Mildenhall debut to a solid paid five; whilst up front, Alex Spooner marked another excellent showing for the 2022 Fen Tigers’ new boy with a dominant race win.

Just the one race to go to close proceedings on what is, of course, just the first half of this two-part cup tie. The up-to-this-point-unbeaten, Bebee reappeared as one of Vasey & Gardner’s two picks in the nominated riders race; the visitors’ top two of Morley and Bowtell picked themselves effectively. It had been Bowtell who’d got the better of Edwards in heat 13; this time it was Morley, turning back the clock with a vintage showing to go tapes to flag, with Edwards taking what may yet prove a vital second place. 

Of the match and that all important huddle, Jason Gardner (on duty for his first official fixture as Joint Team Manager) said,

“We took the opportunity after heat eight to gather together and reflect on the meeting up to that stage and discuss what we needed to do to achieve our goal – I always felt we needed a 12 to 14 points advantage to take to Iwade next week and that’s what we got in the end.

“It was really a carbon copy of last week’s challenge match [vs. Poultec Select] – with an improved second half of the match from all the team.

“Each and everyone contributed. Ryan and Jason delivered vital race wins, Sam gave a truly memorable performance on his 50th. match for us, Alex was consistency embodied with a win and no lower than paid second in his other rides. And Jack, Luke and Josh all showed us they can gate and get valuable points.

“All in all, the conclusion is that we were again very solid, but, yes, with room for improvement too and that’s a good position to be in so early into the new campaign. We now need to go again next weekend, show the same points scoring consistency and get ourselves into that Cup Final”. 

Mildenhall Fen Tigers 51

Ryan Kinsley   3, 1, 2', 1'      = 7 + 2
Sam Bebee      2', 3, 3, 3, 0  = 11 + 1
Jack Kingston  1', F, 2, 3       = 6 + 1
Alex Spooner   2, 2, 1', 3      = 8 + 1
Jason Edwards  2, 3, 3, 2, 2  = 12
Josh Warren    1', 1, 1, 1      = 4 + 1
Luke Muff      2, F/Ex, 0, 1    = 3

Kent Royals 39

Alfie Bowtell 1, 3, 2, 3, 1       = 10
Jamie Halder  F, 1, 2, F/Ex     = 3
Danno Verge   0, 0, 2            = 2
Joe Alcock    3, 2, F/Ex, 0      = 5
Ben Morley    3, 2, 3, 0, 3      = 11
Chris Watts   0, F, 0               = 0
Sam Woolley   3, 1, 1', 1, 0, 2 = 8 + 1

Heat details

1  (rerun) Kinsley, Bebee, Bowtell, Halder (fell)  52.5 5-1 [5-1]
2 Woolley, Muff, Warren, Watts   54.6  3-3 [8-4]
3 (rerun) Alcock, Spooner, Kingston, Verge  52.6  3-3 [11-7]
4 (stpd – awarded) Morley, Edwards, Woolley fell, not exc.), Muff (fell exc.)  no time  2-4 [13-11]
5 Bowtell, Spooner, Halder, Kingston (fell)  53.3 2-4 [15-15]
6 (stpd – awarded) Bebee, Morley, Kinsley, Watts (fell)  no time 4-2 [19-17]
7 Edwards, Alcock, Warren, Verge  53.8  4-2 [23-19]
8 Bebee, Halder, Woolley, Muff  54.2 3-3 [26-22]
9 Morley, Kingston, Spooner, Watts  55.5 3-3 [29-25]
10  (stpd – awarded) Bebee, Kinsley, Woolley, Alcock (fell exc.)  no time  5-1 [34-26]
11 (rerun) Edwards, Bowtell, Warren, Halder (fell exc.)  55.5  4-2 [38-28]
12 Kingston, Verge, Muff, Woolley  56.2 4-2 [42-30]
13 (rerun) Bowtell, Edwards, Kinsley, Morley (exc. tapes; 15m)  54.8 3-3 [45-33]
14 (rerun) Spooner, Woolley, Warren, Alcock   55.9 4-2 [49-35]
15 Morley, Edwards, Bowtell, Bebee  56.0  2-4 [51-39]