Eastbourne Eagles 46-44 Kent Kings
Eastbourne Eagles 46-44 Kent Kings

The second leg of the Knock-Out Cup First Round tie concluded at Arlington with the Kent SLYDE Kings going down to the Eastbourne Eagles 46-44 on the night, 94-86 on aggregate in a valiant display that saw Kent become the visitors that have been closest to winning on the Sussex shale this season.

The Kings were led by young Jack Thomas who dropped just one point to an opponent in 5 rides clocking in a paid 14 haul, there was also good support from guest Danny Ayres and stand in captain Ben Hopwood.

Already six points down from the first leg the gap became 8 after home captain Georgie Wood took the opening heat ahead of Kings guest Danny Ayres, with Charley Powell taking third it was an opening 4-2 for the hosts.

Heat two saw George Hunter lead from the gate before Matt Bates found a way to make the pass on the last lap. With Spooner taking third it was now 10 point gap on aggregate. Heat three saw the Kings level the scores on the night with a 5-1 from the pairing of Ben Hopwood and Jack Thomas which was to be the most effective does the visitors on the evening. A share of the spoils in Heat 4 maintained the deadlock.

Heat 5 saw a moment that the Kings fans had dreamt of when it was announced that the guest for the evening would be Danny Ayres. The recent King’s Lynn signing made the start and rode four sublime laps. Once again the race resulted in a share of the spoils. Heat 6 saw the home side retake the lead after another heat advantage from the Wood/Powell pairing, this time they were split by another former King acting as a guest Connor Coles.

Heat 7 was given the mantle of race of the night. The Kent pair of Hopwood and Thomas gated with home rider Jake Knight swooping by both of them by the end of lap one.

With the home side leading by two heats 8 and 9 were pivotal in the overall outcome as the home side hit back to back maximum heat advantages to take the lead to 10 on the night 16 on aggregate.

The last race before the interval saw Kent once again ignite hopes of a comeback. A maximum 5-1 heat advantage once again coming from the Hopwood/Thomas pairing this time over the home captain Georgie Wood, this pulled it back to six points on the night which gave hope amongst the fans on the first bend that they could pull off a shock.

If Heat 7 was the race of the night then Heat 11 was the most eventful as in the first staging Bradley Andrews came down in a typically tight opening corner with the referee putting all four riders back in the rerun. The second staging saw Eastbourne reserve Matt Bates get some unexpected and drive into back of team mate Jake Knight coming down into the path of Bradley Andrews and both riders coming down with the red lights coming on once again as Danny Ayres was leading.

This time referee Chris Gay surprisingly put all four back stoking the ire of the travelling fans but leaving the home fans believing in miracles! The third attempt saw Jake Knight make the start with Danny Ayres in second. In the first corner both Bradley Andrews and Matt Bates again came down and with no red lights they both remounted and Bradley Andrews took the third place point with Ayres finishing behind Knight it was another shared heat. The shared heats continued in Heat 12 to keep the hosts six up on the night to have one foot in the next round.

Knowing that nothing less than three 5-1 heat advantages would do to draw the tie on aggregate Heat 13 proved decisive when a battle between Danny Ayres and Jake Knight saw the home rider come off, he stood up to see the visitors on a heat advantage and made no attempt to clear the track more standing in the middle of it as Ayres came round. Knight was excluded from the rerun and although the Kings took a 4-2 heat advantage the second place from Georgie Wood all but mathematically made progress to the next round certain and it was indeed sealed in Heat 14 with a shared heat, as Jack Thomas showing why he is so highly rated took the chequered flag.

Heat 15 saw Jack Thomas make the start and ride perfectly to take the scalp of Jake Knight. Mark Baseby fell whilst battling with Ben Hopwood and got up to remount as the Kings took a last race 4-2.

After 30 heats it was the Eagles who progress to the next round, the winners of this tie were due to face the now defunct King’s Lynn Young Stars.