VIPERS CLOSE IN ON TITLE
...but miss out in cup
Don Valleynow require just a point to claim a record breaking fifth league title after winning their top of the table clash at Exeter. The Falcons chances of following up last years promotion with the league championship this were already slim, but will now almost certainly come to an end with still more than a month of the campaign remaining as a result of the 44-45 loss, inflicted with Valeri Lach’s (13) final heat win over Graham Hancock (13). Exeter had looked to have a shot of taking all three points from the fixture until heat 12, in that the visitors took the lead for the first time in the meeting with a 5-0, heat leader John Stewart gifting maximum points to the Vipers with a retirement caused by a fuel issue, Marco Mueller had been excluded after a fall in the first running of the heat. The victory for the European Cup winners came on the back of elimination from the KO Cup at the semi-final stage for the second time in three seasons, the Vipers making a good fist of overturning their 20 point first leg deficit against Ramsgate, but falling short by six, the Rams ensuring a first ever win over Don Valley in the competition at the fourth attempt when Joseph Wall (2) picked up his first points of the night for a second place finish in heat 14. Phil Watmough’s side will face Southampton over two legs for the silverware, the Scorpions—bidding to lift the trophy for a fourth time—into the final following a 55-35 home win over Merseyside, which secured their progression by a clear 20 points. The Scorpions top five scored at least a point in each of the combined 22 times they took to the track in the second leg.
Four teams are still in the battle for the final remaining British League place in the European Cup next season. In seventh Laceby would normally by out of contention, but with 37 points they are within just four of Exeter in second, with whoever finishing higher of those two clubs plus Quantock and Sankey set to take the spot. Sankey ended a run of five straight defeats with a 57-33 home mauling of bottom side Brighton to give themselves renewed hope of a third successive European campaign, Adam Roberts (15) scoring his third full maximum in nine meetings for the hosts. Meanwhile Laceby’s turnaround in fortunes continued with a draw at European Cup spot rivals Quantock, just one league defeat in six now for the Avenues who levelled things up with a last heat Vladimir Anuykov (13) 4-2, Anuykov did however lose the bonus point race-off to Corey Wolin (12). Elsewhere the meeting at Cradley Heath between the hosts and Ramsgate also ended all-square, the KO Cup finalists missing out on all three points after conceding a 4-2 to the unbeaten Bradley Law (18) and Toni Ylonen (12) in the last.
Just one league defeat in nine now for Altrincham who end the week back in the division two promotion places. The third placed Panthers sit a point above Merseyside after beating the Marauders 48-42 in their home fixture, earlier Liam Marlow (15) scored his second successive away league maximum as the Panthers clinched a 41-48 win at Buxton with a last heat 5-1. Douglas Fread (11+1) partnered Marlow for the maximum points in the decider, however the American has since been ruled out of action for the remainder of the season, after falling heavily in the win over Merseyside. Dunmow remain in promotion contention in fifth after responding to a disappointing home draw against sixth placed Denaby by beating Bolsover on the road, 43-47. The Dragons fifth successive win over the Knights this season secured when Mikhail Miloserdov (11) and reserve Andrew McClurg (7+2) scored a fourth Dragons 4-2 in five races in the penultimate heat.
Gateshead need just a point from their remaining six fixtures to be certain of ending their four year spell in the third tier. Neil Magee’s Gladiators are now seven unbeaten in the league following a 44-46 victory at third placed Stowmarket, a last heat 5-1 from the unbeaten Shane Goodwin (15) and Enrico Ludwig (15+2) snatching the points from the Devils, who are now just points difference clear of fourth placed Liden in the promotion race. Still not out of it are Tottenham, who kept their slim promotion hopes alive with a last heat 5-1 at Jericho, Gabor Stark (13) and Pongor Patak (13+1) earning all three points for the visitors, who end the week four places and six points of the top three.
Twice World Championship runner-up Liam Marlow leads the SL21 title race following victory in the British round hosted by his former club Don Valley. The Altrincham number one dropped just a point in racing to his fourth career GP win, he finishing four clear of Indrek Ratnikov (2nd) and fellow Brit’ Shane Goodwin (3rd), who fought out a race-off for the minor podium places. Opening round winner Valeri Lach scored just two this week and slips to eighth in the overall standings.