UP AND RUNNING
Colts join title hunt
A stunning comeback victory at then leaders Brookwood has propelled Houston right into this years title race. Languishing in the relegation zone for much of the first quarter of the season, the Colts are up to fourth and have moved to within two points of new pacesetters Belfast, who themselves picked up maximum points on the road in the latest round of fixtures. It may have been an unremarkable first appearance in a Houston race-jacket in eight years for Vincenzon Sammarco on a personal level, just two third places for the Italian on his SL13 bow, which just so happened to be on the circuit of the club that released him at the end of last season. His addition to the Colts septet though did prompt a chance in order which resulted in Ben Sheppard lining-up at reserve, and that is were the Scots really benefited. The 20 year old had already picked up a more than useful six points from his three rides prior to heat 14 on the Sheffield circuit, which included three for a win in a heat 12 4-2 which saw the visitors level the scores for the first time—they had trailed by eight at one stage! But better was to come, Sheppard passing both Adrian Wyatt (4) and Herman Bencek (5+1) in the penultimate race to join Mathew Gibbs (14) at the front of proceedings, a Houston 5-1 and they were in front for the first time. Gibbs maintained that advantage by winning the last thanks to a fantastic start off gate one, a 44-46 victory secured, one that has all the signs of a turning point in the club’s season. Belfast’s away success meanwhile was returned at bottom of the table Alfreton, 43-47, the Archers remain without a league win this season.
Just three riders who lined up for Long Eaton in their KO Cup first round first leg clash against Heath had started the season in the side. Last weeks big money buys Damian Hollis (9+2) and Kim Siemsen (7) both featured in the all-top flight tie, as did new addition at reserve Per Palmer (7). With two race wins the latter performed well enough in the 49-41 victory—which leaves the tie nicely poised heading into the return leg—but the jury is still out on the two new heat leaders, who picked up just a win apiece. Sedgley have the advantage in the other all-top flight first round tie, Latvian youngster Alex Zakreshevsky (13+1) dropping just a point at reserve as the Sprites soundly beat Ringwood at home, 51-39. There were four point away wins for both Brookwood and Belfast against lower division opposition, leaving them in strong positions to progress, while Alfreton look comfortable in their tie with Mansfield following a 52-38 home win. Totton however still have work to do against competition debutants Ravenstone, who led by eight before settling for a 47-43 win over the SL9 winners, former Totton star Brent Current impressing with 11 from four rides for the veteran Rhinos side.
Caversham have been left as they only unbeaten side in the league this season following their win over Hallamshire and later draw at Stourbridge. Division Two leaders Hallamshire’s own eight meeting unbeaten run ended with the 51-39 loss at Kings Meadow, in which the hosts two up and coming English stars Garry Gould (15) and Adam Carroll (10+2) both scored maximums. Carroll went on to score 12 from second string in the draw at the Scorpions, however he and Gould (11) were on the wrong end of last heat 5-1 which cost the Swans what would have been a fourth away victory of the campaign. Still their club record unbeaten run has been extended to 11 meetings, Totton hold the all-time league record of 18, set over the SL8 and 9 seasons. Up to third are Buxton, who cut their deficit to the top two to six points with home and away wins, the latter a 43-47 success at Stoke, where the unbeaten Jordan Simpson (14+1) and Lech Wysocki (13+1) closed out the success with 5-1’s in heats 13 and 15. Stoke—who handed a debut at second string to new £46,000 signing Samuel Hill (4+2)—weren’t behind in the meeting until the end of heat 15.
Bournville fought back from eight down with six heats remaining to pick up their first ever away league points on their trip to Chesterfield. Steve Donaldson’s Badgers scored a 4-2 and two 5-1’s in the closing stages, each won by Raymond Klish, who finished with season best figures of 16 from six. Up to eighth, the west midlands side find themselves just three points off the third tier promotion places. Meanwhile Ravenstone’s advantage at the head of the standings has increased to three points after they picked up a point in their top of the table clash at Wavendon, the Witches own asset—second string Anthony Hollingsworth—making a significant contribution for the visitors, with wins in heat eight and 11 5-1’s.
Willenhall loanee Radek Folta (12) was the shock winner of the World Championship qualifier in Shetland, a meeting which saw SL12 GP riders Olcay Fugelberg (7) and Liam Harris (5) both exit this years competition.