Rams into last four after win at Sandwell
Double-defending champions Ramsgate are once more into the last four of the Division One Cup, victory at Sandwell this week—their fourth in a row at the Baggies Den—maintaining their 100% winning record in the SL17 competition, Phil Watmough’s side through with a meeting to spare. That meeting will be a ‘dead-rubber’—as far as qualification is concerned—against Altrincham, who didn’t ride this week, Ramsgate’s win having also assured the Panthers a semi final berth. Sandwell went out with a whimper, they dominated by the Rams heat leaders on their own circuit, as they were in their three defeats to them at the venue last season, Bradley Law (13+1), Simon Adzic (13) and Artur Kulyk (10+1) all returning with double figure scores, the trio racing to nine heat wins between them. A 5-1 from Law and Kulyk in heat 13 ensured another Rams victory, at 39-51 it was the third in a row in double figures recorded at the circuit by the visitors, they leading this time from start to finish. Meanwhile in group B Southampton lost their first qualifier of the SL17 campaign, going down 47-43 at Swindon who now top the standings, the Penguins though will struggle to qualify given they have now ridden all their meetings, rivals Don Valley and the Scorpions the favourites to finish in the top two given they still have home meetings against Dunmow and Sankey respectively to come. In the Division Two Cup Merseyside became the first side to qualify for the last four, a 51-39 home win over Liden ensuring a top two finish in Group A for Glyn Hughes’ Marauders.
Quantockextended their unbeaten league run to five meetings with a 43-47 victory at Barking, a tight clash turning the visitors way in heat 14, when Robert Hanka fell while under pressure from Dominic Jordan (10). Second string Jordan was gifted his second heat win in succession when his opposite number gave up the fight on the final lap, four races earlier the 30 year old had benefited from a Sean Hilton fall, with the Rangers again taking a 5-1 on that occasion having looked to be on for three points at best. Hilton also failed to finish the race on his next outing to the track in heat 13, luck certainly against Barking, who given they’ve earned just two league points this season, good do with some going their way. Quantock end the week fourth in the top flight standings, just a point off leaders Don Valley.
Just like the proverbial London bus, you wait for months for a St Peters maximum and then two come along. Brendan Jeffrey put the pair of unbeaten five ride sequences together in the Scions division two meetings against Laceby (49-41) and Lye (39-51), both of which ended in victories for Terry Meech’s side, ones which has taken them out of the relegation zone. Jeffrey’s scoring was the catalyst for Lye’s first home loss of SL17, the home septet managing just three heat wins between them, none of which earned by number one Radim Sivok (5) who threw in his lowest score of the season. As well as Jeffrey there were double figure returns from both Noel Smith (12) and Matthew Madigan (10) for St Peters, who had the points wrapped up by the end of heat 14.
California had the only unbeaten league record heading into this weeks meetings, and it’s one that remains intact thanks to another great away performance this week. Second string Marko Weckstrom dropped just one point an his way to a season best 14 on the Poppies first ever visit to Buxton, a meeting the visitors won 42-48 having never been headed on the night. Success has come despite David Grainger having struggled to find someone to score points at reserve alongside Mauro Bruno (5+1), Thomas Frost tallying a total of just one in the victory at Lye and later home success over Sittingbourne. Grainger though will hope he has solved his problem with the transfers of Sean Thomas and Chris Corry, the pair arriving from Lye in exchange for Eddie Culina (9+1), Corry a straight replacement at heat leader for Culina, Thomas a solid reserve who has over 350 league meetings under his belt. The moves came on the opening of the in-season transfer window, a busy period for clubs with a total of 23 riders signing for new sides, most notably Russian Alexey Khomich, who has made a £200,000 switch from Sittingbourne to Swindon. Khomich has twice reached the GP series, and although the 34 year olds last appearance came some eight seasons ago he has still been a reliable league points scorer. At the other stage of his career is Oliver Hollis, the 20 year old only made his debut last season, however a strong opening to the campaign at St Peters—where he has averaged 5.82—has prompted Don Valley boss Matt Akers to splash out £200,000 on his services, going the other way as part of the deal is Vipers second string Adie Bentham.