Jubilee Edition - ENHANCED
Silkmen suffer last heat heartbreak
Dover’s four year spell in the top flight has come to an end in the most dramatic of fashions, a 4-2 reversal in the last heat of their final league meeting of the season condemning Phil Watmough’s side to second tier racing in SL27, a 3-3 would have seen them stay up! Martin Ata (13) had led the charge all meeting for visiting side Swanage, who themselves were looking for points in their bid to claim European Cup racing next season, and once again the Dane was at his best in the decider. On a night of little passing Mark Smith, having failed to make the gate, soon realised that his side’s best hope of success would be to team ride with Zsolt Szabo (9+1). Benny Henriksson (12) though soon put paid to that idea, he all too easily splitting the pair down the back straight of the second lap, Szabo unable to match the speed of the Swede, or his team mate. The 4-2 clinched Swanage’s third away league win of SL26, a win which saw them snatch fourth spot in the standings from Warrington, who’d lost their final away fixture of the season at Dudley Wood, 46-44. The Dragons took all three league points from that meeting following the minor places in the last, and vital points at that, Stuart Mills’ side climbing out of the relegation zone following the victory, they’d go on to finish a point above the Silkmen in the standings. Elsewhere newly crowned champions Stoke rounded the season off with an 18 point victory at Cradley, Mark Windsor (15) and Matthew Francis (10+2) both unbeaten in the win, the club’s seventh on the road of the campaign and one which extended their unbeaten league run to nine.
Martin Ata had gone into Swanage’s crucial league encounter at Dover as World Champion, the 30 year old Danish International topping the GP series standings by three points from Jukka Peteri following a second place finish in the final round in Krakow. Victory over outgoing SL26 champion Alexey Otyutskiy (10)—who has been far from his best in the series—in heat ten of the Polish round inched the three-time Scandinavian Champion towards the title, it was his after Otyutskiy and Jonathan Svensson beat his main rival for the crown, Daniel Southwood (8), three heats later. After then going on to suffer a retirement in heat 19 Southwood would have to settle for world number three status, he pipped to the runners-up spot by Putney star Peteri, who won the final round with an impressive 14 point tally.
Stoke couldn’t add to their league title in the KO Cup, although surprisingly they were still in contention in this weeks final against Newark right up until heat 14. Having won the opening leg away from home the Invaders could have made easier work of claiming their second win in the competition, however a very rare 5-1 reversal for Janos Csordas (11) and Alexey Otyutskiy (10+1) in heat 13 meant it was still all to play for heading into the penultimate race. That result allowed Cameron Adams (11) and Henrik Molby to be the unlikely heroes for Graham Watmough’s side, they joining forces for the Invaders second maximum of the evening, Adams had also won the first, while the latter would consider he at least paid some of his exorbitant £1/4million transfer fee back with his paid eight return. Newark’s victory means they have won the three main domestic trophies in SL26 outside of the league title, they taking the club’s trophy count to 15 over their nine years in the sport.
Defeat at Reading had given West Ham’s (52 points) promotion rivals hope heading into the final round of division two racing, however the Dockers bounced back to snatch a 46-44 home win over Newcastle (53), while both Stag Hill (50) and Wirral (50) faltered on the last day. Every emotion imaginable would have been felt by the Custom Court faithful as their side let slip a ten point lead in their crunch meeting with the Rebels, they falling behind in the clash when conceding a 5-1 in heat 13. Back-to-back 4-2’s pulled it back for the home side, audible relief heard around the track when Erik Teever crossed the line in third to complete the victory in heat 15. With Stag Hill only managing a draw at home to Reading, and Wirral losing at Peak Dean the result was good enough for both West Ham and Newcastle to make their returns to division one, the Dockers after a five years absence, the latter have been away just one season. Peak Dean’s final day win meanwhile keeps them in the second tier, Nottingham dropping back to division three after 11 years away following their final day loss at champions Bracklesham.
A final day 44-46 victory at Milton Keynes saw a nervous Tresco clinch the final promotion spot in division three behind Bilston and Herne Bay, the first of those two taking the third tier title courtesy of their final round win at Black Country. Earlier in the week Herne Bay had given themselves every hope of taking top spot with a 44-46 win at Tresco, which had also left the Tigers susceptible to a late change from Trentham.