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Sunday 26 June
3:00pm

NDL

Mildenhall
Fen Tigers

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Leicester
Lion Cubs

Mildenhall Fen Tigers – proudly sponsored by Manchetts Rescue and Recovery – begin the defence of their National Development League [NDL] title this Sunday, 15th. May when the Plymouth Centurions visit West Row.

The Devonians are one of three new sides in the NDL this term – though like the other two [Oxford and Iwade (Kent)] they have competed against Mildenhall previously in the third tier; in Plymouth’s case that was back in the the noughties when, then dubbed the Devils, Plymouth suffered a truly demonic fate of twice topping the league standings only to lose the title in the Play Off shakedown. Those Play Offs are back this term and the Fen Tigers have their focus very firmly on ensuring a perfect home record as one prerequisite of ensuring the necessary top four position.

For the visitors they got going first in this year’s NDL but were caught cold by losing their first home meeting to Kent and have suffered two further blows since.  At number one the Plymouth management team of Mark Phillips and team boss Matty Bates had secured the signing of one of the top individual stars of last season in Daniel Gilkes. The 19-year-old from Northampton was also in Plymouth’s senior side the Gladiators and began 2022 in the sort of form which has marked him down as one of Team GB’s most promising young stars. But a horror crash in a Championship fixture at Scunthorpe right at the end of last month left Dan with broken ribs, a collapsed lung and a badly fractured right leg and threatens to end his entire 2022 season.  The only saving grace for the Centurions is that Gilkes has the highest starting average of any rider in the NDL and so they have their pick of Guests to cover the number one race jacket - and it’s no surprise that for Sunday’s trip to West Row their choice of Guest is Jordan Jenkins – who, of course, occupied that racing berth in last year’s triumphant Fen Tigers’ side.

Talking of ex-Fen Tigers, Henry Atkins would’ve been expected to be another in the Plymouth septet on Sunday, but the 2019 Mildenhall man has had a falling out with his home county club and left their ranks. With the facility to cover for him now expired, it leaves the visitors short of a heat leader and needing to find a replacement quickly.

Atkins was one of three local men in Plymouth’s initial starting line-up – the other two are their experienced captain Richard Andrews, back from a period riding for Eastbourne (including winning the National Trophy & KOC with the Sussex club); and 2021 GB Youth 500cc champion, Ben Trigger.  Trigger has already appeared once at West Row this year – finishing just out of the qualifying positions in the GB U21 semi-final.  Trigger’s partner at reserve is a rider, like Andrews, affected last term by the mid-season collapse of Eastbourne as he’d been in the Arlington’s club’s Seagulls NDL team, 18-year-old Eli Meadows.  

The second string pairing in the Plymouth ranks are Adam Extance and Connor King.  Nottingham-born Extance is one of the most experienced riders in the NDL  - most of his previous visits to West Row having been with his initial club, Buxton Hitmen.  King on the other hand has been around for a while without ever establishing a role in a side for a whole season and was unlucky that the Seagulls were grounded last term – a change of south coast club will hopefully prove more fruitful for his son of Suffolk.

There are no selection difficulties for Mildenhall’s team management duo of Malcolm Vasey and Jason Gardner – with the septet who’ve already sealed themselves a place in the NDL Knock-out Cup Final ready now to get that league defence underway.  

Sam Bebee was the hero of the first leg against Kent and will be looking to try and secure a first maximum after going through his four programmed rides unbeaten in that last home match; whilst top man in the second leg, Josh Warren will be aiming to replicate his splendid performance at Iwade a fortnight ago, this time in front of the home fans.  

Jason Edwards scored a dozen in both legs and will want to see his splendid form around West Row continue; whilst skipper Ryan Kinsley is available to ride and will be massively keen to get the better of his predecessor as Fen Tigers’ captain & number one, Jenkins. Jack Kingston & Alex Spooner have had solid starts as newcomers in the Fen Tigers team and will be determined to carry on now that the league campaign is finally getting underway; and it’s a great opportunity for Luke Muff to test himself against opponents in the NDL setting again.

Veteran team boss, Malcolm Vasey is looking forward to the challenge,

“I’m very pleased with how the season has started – we do have a much-changed side since our title win of last year but they’ve done very well to get us to a Cup Final already, which has done wonders to our confidence. Now let’s get on to the defence of that NDL title!”

The action gets underway at 3pm – with gates open at 1.30pm on Sunday 15th. May at Mildenhall Speedway, Hayland Drove, West Row, Mildenhall, Suffolk, IP28 8QU