Diamond Edition - ENHANCED
Houston hit back to top group
Jonathan Huggett (14+2) starred as Houston fought back from seven points down to win at Beverley and qualify for the semi finals of the Division One Cup as group winners. The Mustangs second away win of their debut season in the competition saw them top their section by a point from Coventry, their defeated hosts had been looking to win the meeting by 20 to deny the Scots a place in the last four. A tall order but after gaining a heat ten 5-0 when both Branimir Klepp (5) and Harry Sloan (9+1) suffered retirements for the visitors the Hellcats had a sniff of a chance, the momentum though quickly returned to George Seymour’s side however thanks to a couple of tactical replacements by the Mustangs manager. Huggett’s appearance in heat 11 brought about the first of back-to-back 4-2’s, the experienced Kiwi too strong for Mikael Linden in a battle down the back straight, a race later Craig Upton (7) took the place of fellow reserve Matthew Payne as Houston claimed their sixth heat advantage of the contest, Upton now involved in four of them. Four became five for the 38 year old in heat 14 where the visitors brought themselves within one point of victory with another 4-2, a now demoralised Beverley surrendered completely in the last, all but handing Sloan and Huggett maximum points which would confirm their success. It’s a success that sets them up with a last four tie with York, the Vipers having brought to an end a run of two successive first round exits in the competition by beating fellow qualifiers St Ives 53-37 in their final first round meeting this week.
Houstonwill need another away win if they are to progress to the last four of the European Cup after their debut meeting in the competition against Kassel ended all square. Each of the top five for the Germans contributed at least one heat win at The Range, the pick for the visitors 25 year old Yuri Duskin (11+1) who beat both Jonathan Huggett (13) and Harry Sloan (9+1) in a last heat decider. The British League has provided the finalists in each of last six seasons, however there are signs that SL29 may bring an end to that run with only last years runners-up Beverley (50-40 winners over Malmo) enjoying anything like a comfortable time in the opening meetings. St Ives did beat Pori 47-42 on debut but only thanks to a last heat 5-1, while four-times winners Stafford went down to a shock 44-46 defeat at home to Pskov, the Russian’s big favourites to progress following the victory given to them by a final race Viktor Visek (11+1)/Dusan Simak (11+1) maximum.
A last heat Joshua Sky (16)/Kenrik Kojefors (13+2) 5-1 earned Beverley a draw on their first ever league visit to Doncaster. The visitors looked unlikely recipients of the point after going six down for the third time in the contest in heat 13, however Henrik Kojefors—beaten into third by Colin Richardson and Andrew Korosi (9+1)—won the next in a 4-2 alongside fellow tactical substitute Mikael Linden, before successfully joining forces with Sky in the decider. That point was the only one picked up by an away side in the top flight this week, York having been denied victory at Houston, 45-44, after the hosts claimed a last heat 4-2 there, while leaders Warley went down 46-44 at St Ives despite a 17 point haul from Ivan Khalitov.
Timperley end the week top of the division two table for the first time in SL29 thanks largely to their victory at previous leaders Tibthorpe. The battle of the two relegated sides and firm favourites for promotion this season went the way of the visitors, 44-46, despite their top five racing to just three heat wins between them. Those three though were matched by hat-trick of successes from reserve Nathan Bluestein (12+1), whose victories all came in Pelicans heat advantages. No doubt the most important of those was returned in heat 12 when last years WU21 runner-up pulled off a cracking pass on Ravens heat leader Svenne Gregersen on the opening lap, he also forcing the space which allowed Kevin Bullock (7+3) to follow him through for a 5-1. Bluestein returned to the track in heat 14 to gain the second place which all but secured the Pelicans their crucial victory in the top of the table clash, a second from Bradley Allsopp (11) in the last was good enough to take them over the line.
Dudley extended their unbeaten run in the league to seven and their advantage at the top of division three to five points with a 42-48 victory at bottom side Witham. Heat 11, 13 and 15 5-1’s from Marek Jozwiak (16+1) and Pascal Knezevic (13+2) did the damage for the Tigers in a meeting they had fallen behind in by six. Elsewhere Hawick picked up points on the road for the second week in a row, two this time at Fort William, where Martin Arst (14) secured a 44-45 victory for the Hawks with a last heat second behind Richard Coward (16) having won his four previous races.