IN DEEP WATER
Merseyside suffer opening day rout
After four years away from the top flight Merseyside fans were given a stark reminder of just what it takes to compete with the very best, and it takes more than what they’ve got it seems, with the club suffering a record home league defeat on the opening day of the campaign. Their 20th season in the sport began with a 38-52 loss against another of the league’s founder members, Don Valley, the club who had set the previous record league win at the venue in the opening week of SL9. 11 years on and they beat it thanks to a last heat Iain Johnson (14)/Valeri Lach (12+1) 5-1, the meeting victory having been secured by a 4-2 from the same pairing two races earlier. In all visiting riders raced to ten heat wins to the home side’s five, the Mauraders blown away by the Vipers top three—which also includes Lesta Markoff (9)—and by the performance of World Under 19 Champion Samuel Murphy, who scored a career best of 9+2 as he lined-up at reserve for the first time for the Vipers. It’s back to second string however for the £1/2million signing next week, with fellow teen Aussie David Johnson (3) ruled out following an injury he picked up in the club’s later home 50-40 win over Merseyside. That victory sees the Vipers head the standings on points difference from Altrincham, who also began the SL20 top flight season with home and away wins, the latter a two point success at another newly promoted side, Sittingbourne. The Panthers fought back from six down to take the points in the first ever competitive clash between the two sides, pre-season signing Mark Burt top scoring with 13+1 for the visitors.
A bad night for John Burt at Denaby (23) as his new side Altrincham failed to make it through the first round of the Club Pairs for the first time eight years. Burt scored just two as the Panthers finished fifth in the qualifier, some eight points adrift of meeting winners Buxton (24), who were represented by Artur Kulyk and Sacha Samarin. Combined the two riders have a total GSA amongst the very lowest in this years competition, but it was a day for the underdogs at Denaby (23) where the hosts took second and debutants Swanland (20) third. Sittingbourne (11) finished last in the same qualifier despite having the services of previous pairs champion Vadim Garin to call upon. There was an even bigger shock at Gateshead (18), with four time-winners Don Valley eliminated at this stage of the competition for the second successive season, Iain Johnson scoring just four as they missed out on a top three finish by a point to the hosts. To make matters worse their own asset—Liam Marlow—featured for meeting winners London (25), who finished three points clear of St Peters in making it to round two for the first time in their history.
Much better from the top flight sides to feature in the other two first round Pairs ties, with Quantock (22) heading a division one 1-2 ahead of Laceby at Border, where the hosts also qualified, while at Sankey the top three positions were filled by sides from division one. The hosts finished second there to SL18 winners of the competition Ramsgate (26), the Rams—featuring Alexander Wagner (16) and Shane Goodwin (10)—impressive winners of a meeting in which Merseyside qualified through from in third.
Last years BU19 Champion Charlie Pickering (14) beat Joseph Wall in a race-off to win his BU21 semi final at Manor this week. Victory doubled the Quantock rider’s tally of career WSO event successes to two, the 18 year old finished runner-up in last years BU21 final and this seasons BU19 Final, the latter to Chris Carver (10), who finished fourth this week at Manor. Harrison Cantrel (15), currently on loan at Liden from Cradley Heath, won the second of the semi finals at London.
A strong start to the season for division two title favourites Exeter who are looking to bounce back to the top flight at the first attempt. The Falcons picked up the maximum four league points this week after following up a 44-46 win on their first ever competitive visit to Denaby, with a 60-30 success over Manor, maximums for three home riders in that win, which was the club’s biggest in the league in nine seasons. Exeter sit top of the standings on points difference from Cradley Heath, who also enjoyed success over Manor, theirs away from home returned 44-46 thanks to a last heat Bradley Law (13)/Wade Dunn (13+1) 5-1. Elsewhere Denaby bounced back from their loss to Exeter by picking up a point for a draw at Lye, which ended a poor first week of SL20 for the Tigers, they having lost at home to Brighton, 44-46, in their Division Two Cup opener. In the third tier newcomers Swanland opened up with back-to-back league wins, which included a 42-48 success at Border, however they did lose in the Division Three Cup at home to Bolsover, 42-48. Bolsover had earlier won at Tottenham by seven, the Knights putting down an impressive marker against the side that was expected to battle with them for promotion in SL20.