Kent Kings 55-34 Mildenhall Fen Tigers
Kent Kings 55-34 Mildenhall Fen Tigers

The Kent SLYDE Kings boosted their hopes of qualifying for a second successive National Trophy [NT] Final with a remarkable 21 points victory over Group leaders Mildenhall Fen Tigers on Monday.

Having lost by that exact same margin in the matching fixture away in Suffolk back in May, the SLYDE Kings’ hopes really hinged on being able to match that score and incredibly in a late meeting surge Chris Hunt’s currently rampant charges stormed back into contention in the race to secure a slot against Plymouth in the Final.
There’s more work to be done in a final Group fixture away to Eastbourne but in this sort of form and with a steely determination coursing through the ranks of the team it seems anything now is possible.

The meeting started with the Fen Tigers’ number one Connor Mountain getting disqualified for a somewhat rash dash underneath Kent’s 15 year old starlet Anders Rowe – unaccountably choosing a reckless maneuvre  on the third bend of the third lap  rather than bide his time and suffering inevitable punishment.  The opening 5-1 set the tone for a meeting where Kent started steadily and got to the halfway point six ahead. 

Guest Ben Morley was at his imperious best with a second maximum in consecutive days – Sunday’s for his 2017 club Lakeside and then another in this purple patch of points scoring as replacement for the injured Luke Bowen.  Whether any Guest has ever been more enduring and prolific in successive matches for any side in British league Speedway history has to be doubted – next week when he visits Central Park Stadium in the colours of the Hammers will be a shock to more or less everyone’s senses! 

No shock about the Southend-based speedster’s efforts in an Invicta race jacket on this occasion though – untroubled, as he reeled off five wins.  The other Ben in the Kings’ line up, ex-Mildenhall man Hopwood was also back to the great form of earlier this campaign – four brilliant race wins and matching his namesake’s 15 points haul. 
Jack Thomas started also with a super-fast win over Dan Halsey in heat 4 but in his next ride went way out into the wide-open spaces of the bends in pursuit of Mountain and found himself surprisingly at the back – the 4-2 to the visitors reducing the gap to four points. 

At this stage anyone suggesting that the hosts would end up winning by the perquisite 21 points would have been considered a fantasist and in truth, the 15 points added to the six points lead in the final seven heats was the stuff of fantasy.

Every fantasy needs a pantomime villain and uncharacteristically young Mountain was becoming this meeting’s when he got horribly out of shape and ploughed straight into Thomas in their much anticipated second match up in heat  11 – ending up being excluded again for unfair riding in a night which certainly won’t be the summit of the talented young rider’s career.

Morley, Hopwood and Thomas were taking the heat wins but the solid scoring at second string and reserve level (so vital when a team is using Rider Replacement to cover for a heat leader) was providing hugely important back up – Anders Rowe having a solid enough showing in his first match in the notoriously difficult number two team berth to score paid seven (a total matched by the rider with whom he’s swapped positions, Bradley Andrews); and George Hunter having another excellent meeting scoring paid eight.

The second Mountain exclusion left the Kings 12 points ahead but still looking likely to come up short of the total ideally required.  But a pair of wins apiece by the two Bens in the final four races had the necessary back up, including from Hunter in a vital maximum in heat 14 – turned into a 5-0 when Luke Ruddick fell following ex Kings’ man Danno Verge’s exclusion also for a fall.

Going into heat 15 a 4-2 was required and it looked at first like it was going to be even better when Morley & Hopwood stormed to the front.  But one can never count out the experienced Jon Armstrong and Mildenhall’s ‘Mighty Atom’ skipper fought his way through to spilt the Kings’ pairing; and ensure that whatever happens in the rest of this competition the maths has been unable to split these two outstanding teams.

And the rivalry isn’t going to have wait long at all to rise to the surface again as the SLYDE Kings visit the Suffolk fens on Saturday night – taking the Fen Tigers on in the Travel Plus National League [TPNL].

It’s TPNL action next week at Central Park Stadium too when their local rivals, the Lakeside Hammers take the short trip south over the Thames from Essex visit. In addition to what will now seem the unusual sight of Morley in opposition colours, the match will be notable for the first Central Park appearance of a bona fide Kentish motorcycling legend: Paul Hurry. 
The Maidstone born rider has won British & European titles at Grasstrack, finished on the rostrum in the World Longtrack championship and represented Great Britain in the World Speedway Cup and now has returned after years out of the saddle to ride for Lakeside in the TPNL.  The match vs. Lakeside starts at 6.30pm on Monday 14th. August.
Image courtesy of Elizabeth Leslie