100% Witches stun Cradley
It was the battle of the 100% starts to the season at Cradley Heath and it was visiting side Stowmarket who would come out on top. Three times in the last six league visits to the Silverthorne the Witches had lost by a single point, remarkably the fixture again ended 44-45, but this time it would by Bill Jones’s side that would come away with the all important two points. After slipping eight behind in the first five races it looked as though it would be their opponents to start the campaign with four wins out of four, however a win for tactical substitute Grzegorz Kowalczyk (11+1) in a heat eight 5-1 with his usual partner at second string Tomas Kascak (6+2) helped closed the meeting scores up considerably, that the meat in the sandwich of two other Witches advantages which saw them trail by just one heading into heat ten. Cradley hit back with three 4-2’s in the next four, those results though allowed Jones to make a further change in heat 14, and once more it would change the course of the meeting, this time decisively. Charles Knapper (13) won his extra ride with Paul Hope in tow, their 5-1 meant the visitors could take an unlikely victory with another in the last, and that’s just what they got thanks to Knapper and Kowalczyk. Stowmarket end the first month of the season top of the table, two points clear of a group of three teams, which include Cradley who had begun the week with a 42-48 victory at Brickhill. On that occasion it was the Cobras who would benefit from a last heat maximum, the unbeaten Gavin Moss (15) and his partner Mark Butcher (12+2) clinching both league points at Paxton Road.
For the fifth year in a row Leeds have secured an away win in one of their opening two league fixtures with a trip to newly promoted Derby providing them with the success in SL25. The Jaguars scored six 5-1’s on their way to the 39-51 victory, including three in the closing three races as again the Bucks heat leaders struggled to make an impact. Just four heat wins between the top three for the hosts, in contrast Nathan Kay (13+2) rode to three victories alone and finished second to team mate Aaron Macalauy (15+2) in both heats 11 and 13, the same pairing also picked up maximums in heats nine and 15. A later 20 point defeat at Eastbourne means Derby are still looking for their first top flight point, Leeds end the week second having rounded off the period with a 52-38 home win over Gorleston.
In-between their league successes Leeds (24) got their Club Pairs defence underway with victory in the second round tie at Canvey. Champion Nathan Kay and his new partner Aaron Macaulay—a winner with Willenhall in SL19—scored second half 5-1’s against Huntingdon (23) and Derby to top the standings by a point. Despite their heat 12 reversal the Hunters duo of Kazimierz Agafon and Roman Korbel bounced back to finish second to Leeds thanks to 5-1’s in their closing two races, division three side Runcorn (22) qualified through in third. Coalville (24) topped the standings in the second of the semi finals at Beverley thanks to 5-1 scores over Brickhill and Wimbledon (20) in their final two races, despite that late loss the Werewolves had done enough to qualify through to the final in equal third alongside Poole, Eastbourne (21) went through to the Claygate decider as meeting runners-up.
Leeds’ Daniel Lake scored a maximum to qualify for his third successive BU21 final with victory in the semi final at Ramsgate. Lake has yet to win a major WSO title, last year he finished on the podium—but off the top step—in each of the BU21, WU19 and WU21 finals. SL23 BU19 Champion Matthew Davey (14) won the second of the semi finals at Gorleston after beating Owen Mitchell in a race-off, Davey signed for Devon in a £67,000 deal at the start of this season.
Beverley’s unbeaten start to the league season continued with wins over Poole and New Way. The latter, at 43-47, was their biggest victory on the road since SL22, and was recorded despite the Hammers picking up just a third of the race successes. Four of those five wins though resulted in heat advantages, including in heat eight when reserve Lehel Komp (8+1) led home Scott Sykes (5+4) for a 5-1. Beverley lead division two by a point from Verwood who also remain unbeaten, a second away draw for the Vipers in the embryonic campaign returned at Poole thanks to a Miloslav Dorosh (16+1) winning last heat 4-2.
Bradwell made it four wins out of four in their debut division three season by beating Keswick 43-47 on their travels. Colin Maddox scored a maximum 15 for Malcolm Chambers’ Bandits in the win, the veteran American is averaging 11.00 in the league in SL25, his GSA—which is set to change next week—currently stands at just 7.96.