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This Sunday at Mildenhall Speedway – proudly sponsored by Manchetts Rescue and Recovery – vital league matches are like London Buses: two come along at once!

And the ‘double header’ against Berwick Bullets and Plymouth Centurions (now, that’s two teams which sum up just how ‘national’ the National Development League [NDL] is!] can result in “double bubble” for the Fen Tigers, who should they grab all six points available with two wins will guarantee a place in the title-deciding Play Offs.

Berwick arrive, as indeed they did in the corresponding stage of last season, as table toppers – it’s like déjà vu happening all over again! Though the side from the Borders will certainly neither want that match last September recalled nor certainly to be repeated, as a thumping win that day by the home side turned the 2021 title race the Fen Tigers’ way and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Tweedsiders arrive with six of last season’s team back again – keen to ensure that this time they last the full pace. Their skipper Kyle Bickley won two World Youth titles in the early teens before he was in his early teens – which along with three GB titles marked him down as the top Youth rider of his generation. 

Bickley is only 20 but is a very experienced NDL campaigner and is joined in that category  in the Bullets’ side by two more senior campaigners in Luke Crang and Greg Blair. Both riders have comeback to the sport post the break for the pandemic – north-easterner Crang had been out for five years before reappearing with Berwick’s NDL side last term and Scotsman Blair was out even longer, 10 years. Crang’s injury in last year’s match was a major factor in the Bullets misfiring on that occasion; whilst Blair has much more recent unhappy memories of a disappointing West Row visit, having suffered a torrid time when ‘Guest-ing’ last week for Oxford.

Completing the sextet from last term back seeking revenge are Teessider Ben Rathbone, Mason Watson and their top scorer here last September with paid nine, Kieran Douglas.

And the newcomer? It’s 15-year-old Ace Pijper – son of Mildenhall’s former Dutchman Theo. The Scottish-born teen recently finished as top Brit in the newly-formed SGP3 – the new Youth World Championship.

The Fen Tigers’ second opponents of the afternoon come from the opposite end of the country (south west as opposed to north east) and from the opposite end of the NDL table, sitting one point off the bottom currently, the Plymouth Centurions.

But that position looks deceptive on the basis of the current form: with the Devonians picking up their first point away from home at Kent last Sunday and with their pairing of former Fen Tiger Adam Roynon and one-time GB Youth champion (from back in 2009) Rhys Naylor taking the bronze medal in the recent NDL Pairs tournament. Roynon is of course hugely familiar with the West Row circuit – the last track record holder before the current one and League & Cup ‘double’ winner as a Fen Tiger back in 2004.

Roynon is also a former League Riders Champion in the third tier and that’s a title that the Centurions’ number one as they entered the season, Dan Gilkes would’ve had in his sights in 2022. Unfortunately though, Dan suffered serious injuries which have decimated not just his season but really that of the Plymouth NDL team, as they’ve been short-handed and reliant on ‘Guests’ since then. It was great to see the very popular Gilkes taking some after meeting laps when the Fen Tigers were at Oxford last week but it seems unlikely he’ll be back in a Plymouth race jacket this season. The ‘Guest’ cover in the number one race jacket for the Centurions is yet to be named.

Also out through injury is 2021 British 500cc Youth Champion, Ben Trigger with R/R to cover for his absence.

Like Berwick there’s been an experienced spine to the Centurions side this term with club stalwart Richard Andrews and former Buxton Hitman, Adam Extance.  That pair have traversed the West Row circuit many times but a first-time visitor is another home produced local for the Devonians, David Abraham.  Late news is that it appears that Extance is not riding on Sunday and may be replaced by a rider yet to be announced.

For the Fen Tigers, after the game-changing double against Oxford last week, more of the same is needed to complete what seemed an unlikely-to-be-successful mission a few weeks back and get into the top four.

Being September, it’s time for the averages to be reassessed and the main outcome of that is to see Josh Warren promoted out of the reserve berths (for the first time in his fledgling career) and into the main body of the side. No surprise that with some prodigious scoring feats for Warren including on the past two Sundays paid 19 followed by paid 17.

The rider dropping down is Alex Spooner but despite that it’s the case that he too has been in excellent form since returning to the side after a troublesome shoulder injury.

So, as co-Team Manager Jason Gardner says,

“The side have really been rising to the occasion at the right time of the season. Josh is certainly in great form and I have absolutely no qualms at all about him moving up into the top five – two of his heats last Sunday were probably the best he’d had this year.

“And Alex into reserve? Well, after scores of paid 12, paid 9 & paid 13 in his three matches since coming back into the team suggest to me that we are going to be just as strong with this change in riding order.”

Jason is also happy with the form of his namesake, captain Jason Edwards,

“Jason had his best performance yet with King’s Lynn in the Premiership on Thursday – beating among others the multi-British Champion Scott Nicholls. We’ve seen how incredibly dominant Jason has been at West Row this term and Sunday is another chance to carry that on.”

Joining Edwards as heat leader is a ‘Guest’ well known to the West Row faithful, Connor Coles. The 27-year-old (he celebrates his 28th. birthday later in the week) was a Fen Tiger for three seasons between 2014 and 2016 and is, of course, also considered Mildenhall ‘family’ being the grand-son of Bob Coles, the Fen Tigers’ original number one from their first season in the sport back in 1975.

Since those pioneering days, Mildenhall have won five League Championship titles, this Sunday is a vital stage in getting the Fen Tigers into a position to win title number six. Certainly a ’do-not miss’ occasion.

Sunday (4th. September) being a double header (30 heats of Speedway) has an earlier start time of 2pm – admission details are Adults £22.00; Concessions/Students £20.00; Programme £2.00