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Houston into first European final

Houston came out on top in one in the closest of ties to reach an all-British decider of the European Cup alongside fellow first-time finalists St Ives. Nine down on Pori from the first leg of the semi-final, the Mustangs recovered from the loss of an opening heat 4-2 to lead their home return 25-17 after heat seven, six straight race wins—with a brace apiece from Darren Stevens (15) and Branimir Klepp (13+1)—taking them within one of levelling the aggregate scores. The Finns however were nothing but resilient, they would not give up that hard fought advantage, and four tactical substitutions helped them remain in front right until the very final race. Needing just two points from the decider to progress to the final of the competition they won in SL30, they were dealt a huge blow just half a lap into it, ex-Bury man Matti Vaisanen (10) clashing with Stevens in the first running and then excluded from the second by the referee who could have called it either way. There wasn’t many complaints from the Scottish crowd who felt they were about to witness something special, Stevens and Klepp did not let them down, the partnership’s second 5-1 in the space of two races came with ease and with it a single point aggregate victory went the way of Houston. St Ives needed just a two point win or better from their home second leg to progress against Horsens, they crossed the winners threshold with two races remaining when Marek Siadaczka (12) and Bosko Brezic (10+1) scored the side’s third 5-1 of the meeting in heat 13, the other two had been put together by the Nalek Walczak (13) and Dylan Johnson (8+2)—in the side as a guest—partnership.

TODAY: Shorts

A visit to struggling Dudley provided Fort William with the opportunity to firmly put themselves back in the title race. The 42-48 success at the Tigers was their first on the road since they went—briefly—top of the division one table over three months ago. Richard Lewis (15) and Richard Coward scored heat 13 and 15 5-1’s to confirm their side’s victory, one which moves them to within a point of current leaders St Ives. Ninth placed Dudley and bottom side Sneyd Green are becoming increasingly detached at the foot of the standings, with the latter having lost nine of the last ten, including their latest home meeting against Beverley. It was a close run thing though despite the Hellcats taking an early lead with a 5-1 in the opener, it was only when they went in front for a third time in heat 12 that it stuck, the excellent Daniel Bauer (14) and reserve Scot Knight (9+2) picking up maximum points for their side there as Paul Mitten (7) failed to finish for the hosts. Beverley are presently in a three-way battle with York and Warley to avoid the last relegation place, and the Warriors made gains on both thanks to their later 44-46 win at the Hellcats, Bauer (10) this time running a heat 15 last as their midland visitors took the two league points thanks to a Vladilen Bunin (11)/Rasmus Aubynn (10) 4-2. York meanwhile were held to a draw at home by leaders St Ives.


Boy does Nalek Walczak like the WU21 Championship. A runner-up at 16 and 17, now a winner at 18 and 19, the St Ives youngster shrugging off his surprise early exit from the full World Championship to once again prove he’s the best in his age group by far. The Polish Champion recovered from dropping a point to Ethan Mitchell (13) in heat three of the final at Beverley to win his next four, results which saw his finish clear of both Mitchell (2nd) and Thomas Schroeder (3rd) on the podium, with the two going on to fight out a race-off for the minor places.


Branimir Klepp—crowned Norwegian Champion earlier in the season—scored 12 in landing his second career WSO meeting win in this weeks Scandinavian Final in Malmo. The prize a first trip into the GP’s for the 24 year old Houston heat leader, where he’ll be joined by Henrik Kojefors and Jarl Beito, the other automatic qualifiers from the section. At 41 Kojefors will be the oldest rider ever to appear in the series.


A first ever home defeat for Blackpool as the division two leaders were caught cold by Pitsea. The Blaze failed to recover from the concession of two 5-1’s in the opening five, going down 42-48 despite an 18 point maximum from Miloslav Ivanoff. Ivanoff (15) was also unbeaten later in the week for Dave Hood’s side, as they claimed their sixth away win of the campaign on their trip to Buxton, 43-47.


If Liden are to mount a late promotion bid in division three they’ll need plenty more weeks like this one. The Sprockets winning home and away to move to within seven points of the closely packed top three, their latest success returned at Bolsover, where reserve Lee Barnett (7+3) was one of five different heat winners for the visitors, with his success coming in one of four 5-1’s scored by them.


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