Lead quartet into semi finals
A strong look to the Division Two Cup semi finals with the divisionís current top four all qualifying through the group stage this week with comfortable home wins. Itís been a great season for the quartet who are also all still in contention in the KO Cup, which has reached itís quarter final stage. Buxton host Long Eaton in the first leg of their third round tie in that competition next week, the pair will also meet in the first knock out stage of the Division Two Cup, the Rifles winning their group thanks to a 54-36 mauling of Stoke at the Perksdome in their final first round fixture, the margin of victory taking them clear of runners-up Bradford on points difference, both Stoke and Ramsgate eliminated by just a point. The final standings in Buxtonís section were even tighter, Stirling eliminated following a 49-41 victory defeat at Caversham this week, while the Swans would go through as group winners despite finishing with the same points total as their defeated visitors. Of the four semi finalists only Bradford have won the competition previously, they beating this years last four opponents Caversham in the SL7 final. In the Division Three Cup a club record 62-28 win for Wavendonóthe only side to have won the competition twiceóat Ernsford Grange saw them progress to the last four once again, the Witches take on Ringwood in the semi finals. Ernsford Grange are also through despite suffering the second biggest defeat in their history, the 56ers take on Mansfield for a place in the final. Itís the first time Mansfield, who had qualified prior to this weeks meetings, have been past the first round group stage in their 11 year history.
Jone Berganís (5) reign as World Champion will end this season after the SL10 GP series winner failed to negotiate his second round meeting in Lublin. Bergan lost over a point from his average at Prague at the beginning of this season before making a £175,000 switch back to the British League with Herne Bay, in his six league meetings for the Flyers heís averaged just 8.12. Having just scraped through his first round meeting it was of no surprise the 32 year old struggled in Lublin, especially given he was drawn in the same qualifier as fellow previous World Champions Nyek Timko (13) and Erich Lacina (9) plus a three-time World Championship runner-up in Miksa Mathe (12) and current World Number four Sarkis Evanoff (14). Bergan didnít beat any of them or win a race and finished with only one rider behind him in the standings. Bradfordís Evanoff took the meeting win, the success his 11th of his WSO career, Timko and Mathe filled the minor podium positions. Ringwood star Daniel Pesola (13) topped the standings in the qualifier at Brookwood, a first WSO event victory for the Finn who finished as WU21 runner up in SL6. Of the six Brits in action in the two meetings only Nicholas Cole (9) did enough to reach the last 32, his performance in Lublin taking the number of home nation riders to reach the third round up to five.
The prospect of a first European Cup final without home nation representation grew closer as the only remaining British League side left in the competition, Brookwood, were held to a draw by Prague in their first leg of their last four tie. It could have been a lost worse though for the Spitfires, who despite taking an early lead were eight down by heat five after conceding two 5-1ís and a 4-2 in the space of three races. The hosts fought back with a run of eight race wins in ten, half those going the way of Harry Nicholls (17) who twice beat Erich Lacina (12+1) on the night. One statistic that will give the Spitfires hope going into the return leg, Prague have won just one of their last five meetings against British opposition on home shale, that a slender 47-43 victory over Houston earlier this season.
No win in five now for early season leaders Cranford who have slipped to fifth in the division one standings. The Yellowjackets latest meeting ending in a draw at home against Belfast, the Beehive a good foraging spot for the Sinks, who have now picked up points in four of their last five league visits there. Ben Cross (8+4), down at reserve following the change in averages, was instrumental in ensuring that Cranford at least avoided a second successive home league defeat, the Long Eaton asset scoring points in each of his five races including three for a win in heat two and two for a heat eight paid victory. The second of those gave the hosts an eight point lead in the clash, a lead that was whittled away by three second half Belfast heat advantages, all won by Nyek Timko (16).
Home and away wins have taken Mansfield two points clear at the top of division three, the latter a 42Ė48 success at promotion rivals Shetland, a meeting which was settled in their favour by a last heat Deryugine Mikhail (15)/Miroslav Pen (13+1) 5-1.