Lions roar into last four
Matthew Joyce (15) showed every bit of his top flight pedigree in scoring a match winning maximum for Linlithgow as they demolished Devon on their own track, 38-52, a crucial victory for the Scots, who progress as first round group winners to the semi finals of this season’s Division Two Cup as a result. 22 year old Joyce—a four-time WSO event winner—recently joined the Lions in a loan swap deal with Dirk Miller, the transfer giving him his first period away from Willenhall in a career which already spans eight years. He’s quickly made friends of the Lions fans, his combative style the perfect match for the demanding support, who’ve had little to cheer about in the decade prior to their promotion as Division Three champions in SL23. Joyce’s arrival certainly has the potential to turn what had looked to be an average season into a great one for Ross Purnell’s side, he class shone against Devon, who inexplicably went without their own loanee Ben Thomson. Linlithgow would have won this even without the weakened Demons line-up, Joyce’s scoring taking the pressure off his fellow heat leaders Joel Slater (8) and Ray Smith (9+1) who both picked up two wins apiece, while another recent addition from the top flight, Fillippo Terzi, chipped in with an excellent nine from reserve. Linlithgow will face Beverley—who’d already qualified for the last four prior to this weeks fixtures—for a place in the final, Gorleston topped their group after a 55-35 win over the Hammers, next up for the Ghosts a two legged knock out tie with Derby, who finished runners-up to the Lions in Group A.
Over a £1million spent on three different riders since the in-season transfer window opened, but for the first time since then Eastbourne end the week outside of the division one relegation zone and their fans can look forward to a positive second half to the season. Any chance for silverware for the Seagulls in SL24 lies with the KO Cup, they visit Leeds in the first leg of their quarter final tie in that competition next week, a venue they recently lost at by 22. Stuart Smith will be hoping for much better on their return and has every reason to believe they’ll get a positive result this time around. That believe comes from back-to-back victories in their latest league fixtures, including a 42-48 win at Stowmarket, where two of Smith’s recent additions made at impact. Jacek Czyzewksi was paid for eight for his four rides, the Pole—who made a name for himself at the Witches in the prime of his career—still showing his qualities at 36, determination rather than speed seeing him pick up points now though, which he did in every race he contested on his former circuit, including three for a victory in a heat eight 5-1. That gave the Seagulls the lead for the second time in the meeting, but they would fall behind again in heat 12 and they were still trailing heading into the final two races despite a Nate Stokes (13) victory in heat 13. £1million man Steve Wales (11) though came to the fore a race later, making a 5-1 with some excellent team riding with reserve Garry Bowman (6+3), back in front Eastbourne completed a 42-48 win with another 5-1 in the last. Another struggling side Dudley were the only other top flight away winners this week, they packing a punch on their trip to local rivals Cradley Heath where five different visiting riders picked up heat wins, with three going the way of Matteo De Feudis (11), whose 5-1 alongside Simone Alidori (6+2) in heat three gave the Tigers a lead they would hold all meeting.
British trio Aaron Macaulay (12)—who finished second to meeting winning Jiri Lastuvak of Lublin after losing a race off—Nathan Kay (12) and Mark Butcher (11) all qualified through to the GP’s from the Play Off round in Leeds this week, which takes the number of home nation riders in this years extended series up to four. Over 20,000 were there to see the meeting and the Jaguars fans in the stadium got their money’s worth, with not only Kay qualifying through but also home track rider Kim Cedergren, who made it through from the final place following victories in his final two heats.
New Way held on to top spot in Group A of the Division Three Cup first round qualifiers as both Poole and Kelso lost their final meetings, with the latter going through as runners-up despite their defeat at holders Torbay this week. Group B winners Runcorn—who’d already qualified with four wins from four—await the Kestrels in the semi finals, SL19 winners Verwood took the final place with a 53-37 home win over Keswick.
Linlithgow celebrated their cup success by picking up their maiden division two away win of SL24, the Lions scoring three 4-2’s and a 5-1 in the final five races as they came from behind to beat Ramsgate 43-47. In division three Runcorn won at bottom side Canvey to move back into the promotion places, while Claygate beat Torbay on the road, 40-50.