Date with destiny for Kent Kings
Date with destiny for Kent Kings
It’s crunch time in the chase for the Play Offs today at Central Park Stadium with the Kent SLYDE Kings knowing nothing short of a win over close rivals for the Play Off positions, Belle Vue Colts will do.

This time last season the side from Manchester were topping the table on the way to taking the title in the championship deciding Play offs – a competition contested by the top four sides in the Travel Plus Tours National League [TPTNL].

This time the Colts know that their play off fate hangs critically in the balance with this evening’s fixture being their 18th. and last in this year’s regular TPTNL season.  The two sides couldn’t be locked together much more closely, with Kent lying second in the table on 31 points and the Colts on 30 points in fourth place.

A win for Kent would therefore mean that Belle Vue couldn’t finish above the Central Park-based side and leave the Mancunians sweating on the results of the other teams around them: Birmingham (who lead the Colts just on points difference), Eastbourne (currently laying fifth on 28 points but with matches ‘in hand’) and coming into the picture with a late surge after two wins yesterday (Sunday) including one over Birmingham, Coventry Bees also on 28 points).

If Chris Hunt’s charges do though fail to arrest their recent dip in results (having suffered three consecutive defeats in the TPTNL going into today’s ‘must win’ fixture) then it would be Kent left sweating on getting an away win up at Buxton on the final Sunday of the season in just under a fortnight’s time.

Kent are happily at full strength in the main body of the side, with a late decision to be made between Jamie Couzins and shoulder injury-victim William O’Keefe as to who takes the no. 6 race jacket.

For the Colts’ management team of Stephen Williams & Graham Goodwin there’s been considerable headaches with three of their declared squad unable to ride.

Club captain, Jack Smith is on SGB Premiership duty with Swindon Robins over in Wiltshire and so unable to renew acquaintances with the Central Park faithful – the GB U21 internaional Smith has on a number of occasions, including recently, been outspoken in his criticism of the Kent track but there’s no question his absence is a significant blow for Belle Vue.

Now second in the Colts’ averages, Smith’s rides will be covered by Rider Replacement.  That will be able to include the new number one and stand-in for Smith as skipper on the night, Kyle Bickley.  Bickley is though the only recognised heat leader in the Colts’ line up with the place of Tom Perry being taken by a ‘Guest’: Devon-based teenager Henry Atkins.

Atkins scored paid 10 of his Central Park debut for his club Plymouth last season and followed that up with paid 11 in the National Trophy clash between the two sides earlier this campaign so has something of a reputation of a track specialist hence the pick as ‘Guest’ to cover for the hugely experienced Perry.

The other absentee is Joe Lawlor and coming in as a second ‘Guest’ in the Mancunian’s line up is a Colt from their inaugural TPTNL season of 2016, Tom Woolley.  The twice former Short Track UK national junior champion, Woolley was last seen at Kent in the colours of the TPTNL side he captains, Buxton scoring nine points.

Teams [in alphabetical order]:

Kent SLYDE Kings:

Jamie Couzins (or William O’Keefe – TBC]; Taylor Hampshire; Paul Hurry; Anders Rowe; Alex Spooner; Nathan Stoneman; Jack Thomas

Belle Vue Colts:

Henry Atkins [G]; Kyle Bickley; Paul Bowen; Kean Dicken; Ben Woodhull; Tom Woolley [G]; R/R for Jack Smith; no. 8 TBC

The action gets underway at Central Park Stadium, Stadium Road, off Church Road, Eurolink estate, Sittingbourne ME10 3SB at 6.30pm; gates open at 5pm.