HORSES FOR COURSES
Ponies run continues
Cup specialists Shetland have become the first club from the third tier of British speedway to reach the KO Cup final after eliminating a second top flight side from the competition. Brookwood took the exit path already ridden by Heath, with the Spitfires eliminated by a single point after a 47-42 semi final second leg loss on the remote Scottish outpost, their long trip north ending in disappointment after they failed to score the last heat advantage required for their own progression. Anton Prockofijev (13) and Timothy Bluestone (11+1) settled for the minor places in the decider after exiting the first and second bends in front of Allan Robertson, the British youngster out of his depth in truth against the experienced Ponies duo, who were untroubled in picking up the three points which sent the home fans into party mode. Harry Nicholls (16) raced to his fourth heat win of the night but was unable to prevent the aggregate loss, only one other visitor—reserve Sean Byrd in heat two—had picked up a victory all evening! Paul Hunt’s Shetland now have the almost impossible task of beating Totton over two legs to become the first division three side to win a major competition, the Tigers into their third final—but still looking for their first win in one—having eliminated Stoke in the last four by a club record 30 point margin. Totton’s new best in the competition was completed by a 55-35 rout on home shale, Miksa Mathe (14+1) and Simon Snow (14+1) both scoring maximums in the second leg, while Vlasik Vladimir (11) was the only rider to beat Cameron Adams (11) on the night.
Three more wins this week has extended Long Eaton’s club record unbeaten run to 15, they now just three meetings shy of the all time best of 18 set over SL8 and 9 by Totton. Four wins over Totton are included in the sequence, the fourth recorded in the first leg of the Division One Cup final at the Perksdome this week, in which heat 13 and 15 5-1’s from Ondrej Valis (15) and Adam Lucas (12+2) took the Rifles advantage heading into next weeks second leg into double figures. Such is their success in SL9 the competition was just a side issue for Long Eaton in a week in which they returned to the top of the division one table for the first time in four months, a 40-50 victory at Epping taking them two points clear of Totton, who were simultaneously suffering a 46-44 loss at Bradford. The win was Long Eaton’s fourth win in the league at High Beech in as many seasons.
Current World Champion Cameron Adams (12) and Miksa Mathe (11) scored a home track 1-2 in this seasons British GP, the Totton pairing claiming the top two podium positions in front of a record 19,352 crowd as the third Tigers rider in the field—Simon Snow (10)—faded late on. Having led the field after 12 heats 21 year old Snow was on course to claim his second home nation crown, however the young Brit finished last when up against experienced trio Mathe, Erich Lacina (9) and Ingmar Slinde (5) in heat 13, a result he couldn’t recover from. Adams then took control with wins in heats 16 and 19, the latter taking him clear of Mathe who’d dropped a point to Adam Lucas (9) two races earlier. Opening round winner Sarkis Evanoff still heads the World Championship standings despite scoring just eight at Totton, the Russian leading Lacina on count back.
A mixed week for Heath in their bid to avoid relegation from the top flight, the Spitfires losing 44-46 at home to Hallamshire, before beating Cranford by the same score-line on their travels. A second place in the final heat at the Cradley Bowl from Julian Harrison (13) was good enough to earn Matt Akers’s Sheffield based side their first away win in over 18 months, a last heat 4-2 from Olcay Fugleberg and Daniel Williams not sufficient for the Spitfires in that, an identical result at Cranford was though, with all three league points going their way following the late success in a meeting they hadn’t previously led in. Cranford have now lost their last eight in the league a run which has left them 11 points adrift of safety.
A second away win in five has taken Alfreton to within two points of the division two promotion places, Kieran Grantham scoring a season best of nine for the Archers in their 43-47 win at Swindon, who began the week second in the standings. The Alleycats have since slipped out of the top three, the Wiltshire side going on to lose at Harringay, 46-44.
Stoke are the new leaders of division three, Vlasik Vladimir (15) scoring a maximum for the Bombers as they went top for the first time in their history following a 44-46 victory at Stepps. Elsewhere Mansfield consolidated their position in the top three with a win by the same score at Ferndown.