Werewolves light up opening week
No Stig Martinson but a familiar start to the season for Wimbledon who won their opening two league fixtures of a campaign for the third time in four years. Considered a world champion in the making having appeared in 23 GP’s before he was 24, Martinson was a notable absence as the Werewolves travelled to Gorleston for their opening day meeting. A fixture in the side for the last eight years the Norwegian was lining up for his new club Eastbourne as Wimbledon began their new campaign in London, that following a £1.3million cash and rider swap deal done between the two clubs in pre-season. The 25 year old would score 11 on his competitive debut, the Seagulls six point winners over Stowmarket. For Wimbledon boss Marc Labrum his departing star may have been getting into the veteran territory, he likes his riders to have plenty of improvement still to come, so age no doubt a factor in bringing in 21 year old Aussie’ Ryan Murphy as part of the Martinson deal. Murphy lined-up in a side that had an average age of under 23 this week, but it was 18 year old fellow second string addition Rubert Zmolek who claimed a maiden competitive win for his new club first, he beating Simon Betts to the three points in heat five to pay just a little of that hefty £700,000 price tag back. In truth though it was the more established top three that saw out the victory for the Wimbledon, their other eight heat wins on the night recorded by their heat leaders, the eighth from the trio a crucial one, Gleb Borin’s (13+1) heat 15 success over Petr Trojan (10+1) securing the 44-46 away victory.
Gorleston hit back from their opening day home defeat by winning at fellow newly promoted top flight side Burnham. The loss was only the Rockets second ever at home in their three seasons in the sport, the new look Bombers side—Steven Potter signed seven riders in pre-season—losing out 43-46 despite a run of four straight wins from one of those new additions, Andrzej Lesiak (12). The former Eastbourne man though trailed in last in the heat 15 decider as fellow Pole Tomasz Joswiak (13) and Petr Trojan (8+4) clinched it for the visitors by taking second and third respectively, two heats earlier the same pair had set up the victory with a 5-1. Elsewhere a last heat win for new signing Stig Martinson (14+3) over Mark Jolly (11) helped Eastbourne to a draw at Coalville in a meeting they had trailed in by six on three separate occasions.
A good start to the season for Cork who are racing at the second tier level for the first time following four years in division three. The Crusaders scored an opening day win at Dudley, 42-48, despite Henri Myllyniemi scoring an 18 points maximum on his return to the British League for the hosts. It took Cork’s whole team to match the triple-World Champions tally of wins on the night, but they would turn their half-dozen successes all in to heat advantages to wrap up the league points prior to the last, with a heat 14 5-1 from second string Carlo Piccolo (7+1) and reserve Marcus Mattingly (8+1) proving to be the match winner. The two sides also met in the Pairs first round, and despite home advantage it was no surprise the tables were turned, with Dudley’s Myllyniemi (16) and Peter Carl (9) taking a clear five point victory in the tie. Cork finished second, top flight Coalville qualifying through in third, but there was not spot in the second round for Verwood.
Verwood were one of four teams from division one to fail to make it through to round two of the Pairs with both Iwade and Gorleston eliminated at Runcorn (24). The hosts topped the standings in that tie alongside second division Beverley, Huntingdon also going through. The fourth to exit was Burnham at Paull, although unluckily giving they scored a respectable 19 points in the tie. The third division hosts won it with 21, they finishing a point clear of fellow qualifiers Stowmarket and Normanton. Brickhill (26) meanwhile were impressive winners of the remaining first round meeting at Bolsover, they topping the standings by five points from the favourites for this years title, Leeds, Coventry took third.
A winning start to life for Normanton who won home and away in the league and beat Brighton at home 47-43 in their Division Three Cup opener. It was their performance at Brighton though which will see others take note, they showing excellent fight to comeback from eight down to snatch both league points at the death, a 12 point turnaround in the scores completed by a last heat Miklos Buzas (15+1)/Sergey Lozhkin (11+2) 5-1. Despite the successes they sit second to Runcorn in the third tier standings on points difference, the Rockets first away win of the season recorded at Earley, 43-47, and also a comeback one, Jake Coiner hitting 18 for the visitors, who’d trailed their hosts 22-14 after heat six.