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The destiny of Mildenhall Fen Tigers – proudly sponsored by Manchetts Rescue and Recovery – in terms of finishing in the Play Off positions is now back in their own hands after an incredible performance to win by 12 points at previously unbeaten Oxford on Wednesday evening (24/8).

Defeat against Play Off rivals Oxford Chargers would’ve effectively ended any hopes of Mildenhall making the all-important top four. But on a memorable evening, a performance which saw Fen Tigers riders grab an extraordinary TWELVE race winners out of the 15 heats that was never an outcome to be contemplated; and the large visiting contingent of fans returned home to Suffolk delighted with one of the best away performances by the club for years - aware that now by winning their remaining three matches (all now at home) the hopes of retaining their National Development League [NDL] crown by getting into the title-deciding end of season play-offs are alive once more.

It was a magnificent all-round team performance. Captain Jason Edwards again delivered a maximum (his FOURTH full house in a row); while sharing top billing with their skipper, Jack Kingston put behind him his recent woes to reel off three absolutely vital heat wins and Alex Spooner, who’s made a hugely impressive return to the side after being out with injury also scored paid nine (for both riders this was their first ever time they’d raced at the recently re-opened Oxford track).

Reserve pairing Josh Warren and the drafted-in Sam Woods delivered some crucial points, not least when Woods partnered Edwards for the heat 11 5-1 which really turned the match decisively in the visitors’ favour.  And as for the Fen Tigers’ ‘Guest’ on the evening, former NL Riders’ Champion, Max Clegg? Well, his 15 points full maximum was as emphatic as one will ever see.

In a season where it’s been all too common to say the exact opposite, in this match everything that could go right, did. The hosts, undefeated on their home track since re-joining the league after a 14 year hiatus, will doubtless point to losing their skipper and number one Jordan Jenkins (of course very well known to Mildenhall as a former Fen Tigers captain himself) to abdominal pains, the legacy of a recent track crash – Jenkins declared unfit in the afternoon and hastily replaced as a Guest by Clegg’s Kent team mate Ben Morley. But whereas Clegg was supreme, it was an evening to forget to Morley, returning a meagre total of just four and three bonus points.

It was though when partnered up with by far the hosts’ most impressive performer, stand-in captain Henry Atkins in heat 10 that Morley anchored the Chargers to their second 5-1 in three mid-match races and had briefly sent alarm bells ringing.

Before that point it had been basically all Mildenhall – with Kingston defying the fact that he’d never so much as seen the circuit before to win heats three and seven in splendid style, leaving the highly rated teenaged pairing of Sam Hagon and GB U21 Finalist Jody Scott in his wake.

The first of these wins had been a maximum (the first of four in the match) for Jason Gardner’s charges – with Spooner tucking in behind his fellow Essex-based team mate to give the visitors an early lead.

Meanwhile with Edwards and Clegg showing that no home rider could trouble them, up to heat eight, the visitors had provided six out of the seven race winners.

Then came the sticky moments of heats eight and ten and suddenly from trailing it was to be the hosts  leading by two going into the interval.

Heat 11 took on then a huge significance and Woods gated magnificently behind his captain, holding Morley at bay for a while and then clear in third ahead of the disappointing Arran Butcher.  That Morley was to tumble out on the final bend was the icing on the cake for Woods and the exuberant Fen Tigers’ fans and the 5-1 turned the match back in the visitors’ favour. 

Kingston was back to winning ways in the next race setting things up for Clegg & Edwards to storm to a maximum in heat 13 and push the lead out to six with just two heats remaining. And it was left to the relatively unsung Spooner and Warren to clinch the victory in the penultimate heat sending the fans into delirium.

The only question now was could the three match points be turned into four in the final race and in the hands of the unbeaten pairing of Clegg & Edwards the answer to that was an emphatic, ‘yes’.

From two behind going into heat 11 to a 12 points win at the end of heat 15 was as impressive as that looks written down.

One of a team load of heroes on the night, Jack Kingston was keen to give praise to his colleagues,

“It was a great all-round team effort.  We knew that this was our last chance to get ourselves into a position to be able to make the Play Offs and that’s what we’ve done – keeping our season very much alive.  And the fans who follow us in such numbers to away matches like tonight and support us at home too deserve that.”

Jack was especially happy that again he’d excelled at a track visiting for the first time.

“It seems that I score the most at tracks I’ve not seen before.  Armadale, Berwick and now Oxford.  I can’t really explain it – maybe somewhere in my mind I have less expectations or pre-conceived ideas about how it’ll go on a track I just don’t know and that eases the pressure on me.  Certainly I felt good from the off today, not having to settle into the meeting, gating well and banging out those two early heat wins.”

Without normal colleague Malcolm Vasey who’s unwell, Jason Gardner was revelling in the brilliant showing of his charges and a first away win as a solo team manager,

“It was a great team showing – with all riders contributing magnificently.  We want to dedicate it to the memory of great friend and sponsor of the club Brian Pacey who so sadly passed away earlier today.  

“We have to give thanks and respect to Max Clegg who was awesome – he’d only ridden for us once before as a ‘Guest’ and that was a 15 points maximum showing also, in the 2018 National Trophy Final.  So he’s still got a 100% record!

“Sam [Woods] stepped in at short notice and got his reward for his hard work  - it was the first time he’d ridden in a Fen Tigers’ race jacket since 2018 also”.

Gardner went on,

“The mathematical permutations had become quite complicated in the race for the Play Offs but are a bit simpler now, from our perspective anyhow – we are on 21 points now (following six points picked up in our last two away fixtures Sunday and today), three wins from the remaining home matches will take us to 30 and guarantee a top four finish. For Oxford, meanwhile, they know that their Play Off hopes basically now rest of getting the victory in the return fixture at West Row on Sunday. Because of that there’s no way we will be complacent about that match and it’s very much a case then of, ‘go again’”

That match is on Sunday 28th. August – an absolutely crucial fixture, Mildenhall Fen Tigers vs. Oxford Chargers at Mildenhall Stadium, 3pm start time..

Oxford Chargers 39

1. Ben Morley [G]        1', 1', 2', F, 0                  = 4+3
2. Henry Atkins           2, 2, 3, 3, 1, 1                = 12
3. Sam Hagon             0, 2, 2, EF, 2, F               = 6
4. Jody Scott               1, 1', 1', 2, 2                  = 7+2
5. Rider Replacement - Nathan Stoneman
6. Arran Butcher          1, 0, 1                           = 2
7. Jacob Clouting         3, 2, 2', 1', 0                   = 8+2

Mildenhall Fen Tigers 51

1. Jason Edwards         3, 3, 3, 2', 2'                   = 13+2 [PM]
2. Rider Replacement - Sam Bebee                      = 3+1
3. Jack Kingston           3, 3, 0, 3                         = 9
4. Alex Spooner            2', 1, 1, 1, 3                    = 8+1
5. Max Clegg [G]          3, 3, 3, 3, 3                     = 15 [M]
6. Josh Warren             0, 2, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1             = 3
7. Sam Woods               R, 0, 1, 2'                      = 3+1

Heat details
1 (rerun) Edwards, Atkins, Morley, Warren 60.50  [3-3]
2 Clouting, Warren, Butcher, Woods (ret.) 62.16 [7-5]
3 Kingston, Spooner, Scott, Hagon 63.09  [8-10]
4 Clegg, Clouting, Scott, Warren 60.96  [11-13]
5 Edwards, Hagon, Scott, Woods 60.50 [14-16]
6 Clegg, Atkins, Morley, Warren 60.09 [17-19]
7 (rerun) Kingston, Hagon, Spooner, Butcher (fell rem.) 61.44 [19-23]
8 (rerun) Atkins, Clouting, Spooner, Warren 61.16 [24-24]
9 Clegg, Scott, Woods, Hagon (EF) (R) 2-4 (26-28) 61.50
10 Atkins, Morley, Spooner, Kingston (fell rem.) 61.50  [31-29]
11 Edwards, Woods, Butcher, Morley (fell) 61.40  [32-34]
12 Kingston, Hagon, Clouting, Warren 61.50 [35-37)
13 Clegg, Edwards, Atkins, Morley (ret.) 60.87 [36-42]
14 Spooner, Scott, Warren, Clouting  62.66 [38-46]
15 Clegg, Edwards, Atkins, Hagon 61.65 [39-51]