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Sunday 26 June
3:00pm

NDL

Mildenhall
Fen Tigers

v

Leicester
Lion Cubs

There may have in the end only have been seven heats completed on a wet Sunday afternoon (15/5) at Mildenhall Speedway – proudly sponsored by Manchetts Rescue and Recovery – but there was drama aplenty; though the premature end to proceedings left the Fen Tigers frustrated at what was an ultimately abortive start to their National Development League [NDL] title defence.

But if there were gongs handed out for triumph in the face of adversity then this side would certainly be getting them, as the team recovered from a truly catastrophic opening heat to roll over their opponents, Plymouth Centurions before the one adversary no Speedway team can beat, the Rain Gods intervened to end the match with the Fen Tigers an extraordinary 21 points clear of the hapless Devonians.

The first staging of the opening heat will sadly remain in the memory for all the wrong reasons. The in-form Sam Bebee continued from where he had left off in the last home match three weeks previously by flying from the gate and leading as he went into bends three and four of the opening lap.  The rider behind him? None other than former team mate Jordan Jenkins – guesting on this occasion for the short-handed Centurions.  Jenkins made an attempt at a passing move that really wasn’t there to be carried out and caught the back wheel of Bebee, sending Sam crashing at full speed into the air barrier and at the same time catching the other Fen Tiger Ryan Kinsley who crashed even more heavily. Jenkins of course came down in the ensuing carnage too and the distractions in front of him saw the fourth man in the race, Plymouth’s Tim Colley fall also. It was an unwelcome, very early appearance on the circuit of the track ambulance with both Mildenhall men in need of urgent attention.

The upshot, after a lengthy delay, was a trip to hospital for Kinsley – with the Fen Tigers’ skipper suffering from what x-rays show looks very much like a broken shoulder. The hope is it might just be a rupture and he can avoid an operation and a lengthy lay-off.

Bebee was left stricken also and out of the meeting as well – in Sam’s case he was suffering from back spasms, a concern for the youngster considering his previous history of a broken back. It was a relief to see him in the pits at the end up and about and looking cheerful through in obvious discomfort from his back and also sore ribs - but it was undoubtedly a scary moment and ended his afternoon prematurely.

So, not even one heat completed and the hosts knew they’d only have five men to see them through the match. The response to this was utterly remarkable by any standards!

Step forward the two reserves, Josh Warren and Luke Muff who instantly knew they were going to have a very busy afternoon. Jenkins excluded as the clear cause of the accident, Josh and Luke made light work of keeping Colley at the back in the rerun heat one: a maximum to start the match.

And it was déjà vu in the next race – with the only difference being that this time it was a Muff-Warren one-two in that order.

And when the super slick Jack Kingston and team mate Alex Spooner delivered a third brilliant 5-1 win in heat three, already it seemed that despite the setback, this Fen Tigers, er, quintet were homing in on a big win.

Time for Jason Edwards to enter the fray with three quick fire heat wins (the second of which, as an injury rider replacement, partnered by Muff for a 5-0) and as the dust settled on heat seven, the score was 31-10. The trouble was that by now there was no dust, but instead an increasingly heavy and slippery track surface as the rain was falling far more persistently.

The sudden downturn in conditions can be seen by the respective heat winning times recorded by the unbeaten Edwards: a super quick 51.4 in heat four compared to a rather tentative 57.1 just three races later.

The referee called for track regrading to try and recover a surface capable of allowing the match to reach a conclusion (it could have been declared as a result at just 10 heats, and of course the Fen Tigers were in a near unassailable position) - but despite the admirable efforts of the Track Staff it was not to be and unfortunately there was to be that dreaded abandonment followed by the words, “result does not stand”.

Of the efforts of his troops team boss Malcolm Vasey was ebullient in his praise,

“I can only describe today as the ‘Greatest Win that Never Was’! The way we responded to the blow of losing Ryan and Sam right at the beginning of the match was superb.  Such heroism with our reserves scoring consecutive 5-1s in heats one and two - I doubt such a thing has ever happened before in a match.  Then another 5-1 from Jack & Alex and Jason totally imperious with his three heat wins. Such application and determination, it must terrify the rest of the league – with victory snatched away from us only by the weather”

Co -Owner Phil Kirk spoke on behalf of the management team,

“It's not been a good day for the club, to see Ryan and Sam get hurt in the opening race was awful, and we are waiting now to see how long we will be without them. In just a short period of time the team has bonded so well and this is a big blow, but we will battle on and we all send Ryan and Sam our best wishes for a quick recovery.

“Then after this we had the remaining five lads riding with such commitment for the club and their injured teammates only to see the rain arrive after seven races and be left with no option but to abandon the meeting.  I guess if we take any positives from today it is the efforts of the five lads as we were heading towards a big win even without Ryan and Sam.

“We will publish details during the week about the rain off tickets and ask all supporters to keep hold of their admission tickets as advised by our announcer.  We will let everyone know once we know the extent of Ryan and Sam's injuries and how long we may be without them.”

Next Saturday (21/5) what will now officially be the Fen Tigers’ first NDL match of the season is away at the home of their predecessors as league champions, Leicester Lion Cubs.

Mildenhall  31
R. Kinsley F. injured – withdrawn      0
L. Bebee   F. injured – withdrawn     0
J. Kingston  3  2                             5
A. Spooner  2' 1'                             3+2
J. Edwards  3  3  3                          9
J. Warren    3  2'  1                         6+1
L. Muff         2' 3 1  2'                     8+2

Plymouth 10
J. Jenkins  X  3                              3
T. Colley    1                                  1
R. Andrews  F  2                            2
A. Extance  1  FX                           1
C. King      0  F                              0
E. Meadows  0  L                           0
B. Trigger   1  2                             3

Heat results
1 (rerun) Warren, Muff, Colley, Jenkins (exc.), Kinsley (injured), Bebee (injured)  54.3  [5-1]
2 Muff, Warren, Trigger, Meadows  53.6  [10-2]
3 Kingston, Spooner, Extance, Andrews (fell)  52.9  [15-3]
4 Edwards, Trigger, Muff, King  51.4 [19-5]
5 (rerun) Jenkins, Kingston, Spooner (tapes offence, 15m.), Colley  52.1  [22-8]
6 Edwards, Muff, Meadows (fell rem., LPD). King (fell)  53.4  [27-8]
7 (rerun) Edwards, Andrews, Warren, Extance (fell exc.)  57.1  [31-10]

Abandoned due to track conditions – result does NOT stand