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Sunday 26 June
3:00pm

NDL

Mildenhall
Fen Tigers

v

Leicester
Lion Cubs

They say that misfortune and good luck even themselves out across the length of a season - well, if that’s the case then Mildenhall Speedway club - proudly sponsored by Manchetts Rescue and Recovery- will be due a significant payback later this year by Lady Luck after the travails of the opening two NDL matches this past seven days!

Because, after losing two riders to injury in the very first league match last Sunday (a match that didn’t then reach a conclusion due to the weather), on Saturday (21/5) away to Leicester, the Fen Tigers lost two more - meaning that they had to traverse the second half of the match against the Lion Cubs with just four riders.

It’s really not any kind of flight of fancy to say that Mildenhall were certainly the better of the two sides should numbers have remained equal - but circumstances conspired against them on a warm evening in the East Midlands; and they left, battered, bruised and pointless having gone down to a 49-40 defeat.

The case for the defence is that the home side rely heavily for points on their prolific twin heat leaders, the two Thompson brothers - and sure enough, the siblings produced six of the hosts’ race wins between them.  But when it came to what had always seemed likely to be the crucial heats 13 and 15, the Fen Tigers’ own teenaged superstar, Jason Edwards showed he had their measure, winning both races in superb style. By then though sadly, the damage had been done in a traumatic and hugely unfortunate opening half of the match - losing to injury withdrawals both reserves, who’d started the match knowing that due to R/R for injury victim from last weekend Sam Bebee, they’d be called upon for extra rides and had begun in very lively fashion.

Josh Warren was the first to take the additional ride, in the opening heat and showed he had the beating of one of the hosts' second strings, taking third place behind his skipper Edwards and well clear of the Lion Cubs' Mickie Simpson. Next up was the Reserves race and this would be a litmus test of how Warren and partner Luke Muff were to do against their matching rivals in the hosts' septet.  And it looked like that was going to be extremely well, as the Fen Tigers' pair stormed into the 5-1 position. However, Muff went too wide when leading on the fourth bend of lap one and came down; race stopped and Luke was disqualified from the rerun.

Rerun and again Warren was lightning fast out of the traps.  Coming out of the second bend the out of control, trailing Kai Ward ran into the back of Josh and in collateral damage, brought down his own team mate Vinnie Foord too. There was a lengthy delay as men and machines were extracted from the melee and then utter disbelief when the very experienced referee Tony Steele made an unprecedented decision to deem this incident the result of an "unsatisfactory start".

With all three back in, the decision to allow Ward to be one of those backfired with awful consequences. Again Josh Warren was totally dominant only for Ward once again to crash into the back of him - this time on the very final bend. The race win was of course awarded to Josh but it was the end of his involvement in the match - with a damaged ankle forcing him out.

This put huge pressure on Luke Muff, knowing he'd need to take a full complement of seven rides and he was rising to the challenge, leading heat eight with the Fen Tigers' on for a 5-1 again when he fell on that accursed fourth bend and his team mate Alex Spooner couldn't avoid him.  The crash led to a disqualification for Luke but far more damaging was the neck injury he suffered - now both reserves were out and it was down to the 'Fantastic Four' to take the battle to the Lion Cubs.

And what an incredible effort it was.  All four recorded race wins - Edwards, those two epic beatings of the Thompsons; James Shanes on his Mildenhall debut taking heat nine in trademark spectacular style; Spooner winning the rerun fateful heat eight, with machine problems restricting his overall scoring; and Jack Kingston leading home his skipper for the visitors' only 5-1 in heat five.

That 5-1 reduced the deficit to just a solitary point and that's how it stayed until heat 11 but then three of the remaining four races had to involve just a solitary Fen Tiger; and with the odds quite literally pitched against them there was no stopping that one point extending to nine by the end.

Co-Team Manager Jason Gardner, in joint charge of his first completed NDL match for the Fen Tigers was full of praise for his beleaguered charges,

"Myself and Malcom [Vasey, co-TM] are so proud of the efforts of all the lads, those injured and those who had to battle to the end with reduced numbers and a decreasing number of functioning bikes also.  It was an incredible effort  and, let's face it, but for the injuries we would have won this match.

"Jason [Edwards] showed he had the beating of the Thompson brothers, who were Leicester's only truly potent threat to us, in heats 13 & 15.  But by then we had been condemned to field only one rider in FOUR heats and couldn't make up the difference that made to things.

"To go so close to getting the bonus point was gutting, but to say that everything went against us is an understatement".

And not for the first time in this embryonic campaign, the refereeing decisions left the Mildenhall camp utterly exasperated,

Malcolm Vasey fumed,

"We were completely baffled by the ruling in the first rerun of heat two to call the incident when Josh [Warren] was taken out by Kai Ward crashing into him as an "unsatisfactory start".  It was clearly Ward's fault - and happened after coming out of the second bend; not a situation when it can be called an incident at the "start" surely.  That the upshot was Ward allowed in the rerun where he brought Josh down again and out of the meeting injured only adds to our displeasure."

Vasey has seen it all before (though not something like that decision) but the new man, Gardner is certainly being put through the mill in these early matches of his Team Manager career,

"It's certainly been a steep learning curve.  Everything that can happen in the two league matches so far has happened - down to five riders after one heat last Sunday and down to just four midway through this match.  Not to mention how every crash seems to happen at the furthest point from the pits on bend four!

"We can't fault the incredible spirit and determination of the team though. Josh started the meeting looking so good that one could easily surmise he was going to score eight or nine points - so being cruelly cut down in his prime was gutting.  Luke twice fell when leading races so he was going to add valuable points too if he'd also not got hurt.

"Jack's [Kingston] paid 10 was brilliant - he's not seen this place since riding it once back in 2014 and the track has been completely refigured since then.

"And the circuit as it is now did produce some great racing with many passes and some sterling efforts like Alex's  [Spooner] in heat 14 and James' [Shanes] in winning his race".

And it was finally time for some reflection.

"At the end of the day there were many 'ifs & buts' but we also need to remember that actually last season we lost our first three matches but ended up as League Champions!"

NB. Fixture news follows in next Press Release.

Leicester Lion Cubs 49

Dan Thompson       3, 3, 3, 1', 2             = 12+1
Mickie Simpson       0, 0, 2, 1                 = 3
Connor Coles          3, 1, 2, 3                 = 9
Tom Spencer          2', 0, 1', 3                = 6+1
Joe Thompson        3, 3, 3, 2, 1'             = 12+1
Kai Ward                Ex, 0, 1, 1                = 2
Vinnie Foord           2, 1, 1, 1                  = 5

Mildenhall Fen Tigers 40

Jason Edwards       2, 2', 2, 3, 3             = 12+1
Rider Replacement - Sam Bebee
Jack Kingston          1, 3, 1', 2, 2             = 9+1
Alex Spooner           0, 2, 3, R, 2             = 7
James Shanes         2, 2, 3, 0, 0              = 7
Josh Warren            1', 3 injured – withdrawn  = 4+1   
Luke Muff                Fx, 0, 1', Fx injured – withdrawn  = 1+1

Heat deatils

1 D Thompson, Edwards, Warren, Simpson  61.44 (new NDL track record)  [3-3]
2 (rerun twice; stopped - awarded) Warren, Foord, Ward (Exc. UR), Muff (fell exc.) no time [5-6]
3 Coles, Spencer, Kingston, Spooner 5-1 (10-7) 62.19
4 J Thompson, Shanes, Foord, Muff 61.81 [14-9]
5 Kingston, Edwards, Coles, Spencer 1-5 63.07 [15-14]
6 D Thompson, Shanes, Muff, Simpson (fell rem.) 61.94 [18-17]
7 J Thompson, Spooner, Kingston, Ward 62.19 [21-20]
8 (rerun) Spooner, Simpson, Foord, Muff (fell exc.) 64.94 [24-23]
9 Shanes, Coles, Spencer {3 riders only} 62.75 [27-26]
10 D Thompson, Kingston, Simpson, Spooner (ret.) 62.57  [31-28]
11 J Thompson, Edwards, Ward  {3 riders only}  62.32 [35-30]
12 Coles, Kingston, Foord {3 riders only} 62.75 [39-32
13 Edwards, J Thompson, D Thompson, Shanes 61.88 [42-35]
14 Spencer, Spooner, Ward {3 riders only}  64.44 [46-37]
15 Edwards, D Thompson, J Thompson, Shanes 62.25 [49-40]