Kent Kings come up short
Kent Kings come up short
A plucky performance by the Kent SLYDE Kings came up just a little short, as the Central Park-based side went down to aggregate defeat by 94-84 to the Mildenhall Fen Tigers in the Easter Chase.

No likelihood of any Easter Bunnies burrowing onto the West Row track with not a trace of dirt in sight but despite the slick conditions from the off, the visitors started in good style.

Luke Clifton enjoyed quite possibly the best race win since his return to the sport, storming to a heat one victory. With his namesake, skipper Luke Bowen anchored in second place (the two holding at bay the highly rated Connor Mountain) it was not only the perfect start for the SLYDE-sponsored Kings but also extended their lead in this two legged tie to 14 points.

The aggregate lead was quickly back to the ten points it had started the afternoon at, when the reserves race saw a maximum to the hosts – this one awarded after the Kings’ teenaged Alex Spooner fell for a second time causing the race to end prematurely.
Heat three though, saw Ben Hopwood carry on where he’d left off in the first leg on Good Friday and his race win ensured still no inroads had been made into that useful first leg advantage.

That situation was to change through heats four and five though. Despite a never-say-die effort from Nathan Stoneman he was ultimately unable to get past the impressive Dan Halsey and ace in the pack Jordan Jenkins in his first ride; and when first race hero Clifton lifted at the start in heat five it left him stranded and Bowen had to fight to split the two Fen Tigers.

The rot was stopped in heat seven with Stoneman and Bradley Andrews securing a 3-3 behind the now resurgent Mountain.

And better, far better came in the next race with Hopwood again an exuberant heat winner and Friday’s hero Jack Thomas pipping Halsey right on the line to secure a 5-1 for the visitors. With Clifton winning his second race of the afternoon in heat eight, it meant that at the half-way point on the day it was 25-23 to the hosts and so the SLYDE Kings still held an eight points advantage on aggregate.

Heat 9 saw former Kings man Danno Verge break the tapes, allowing the teenager Jenkins to step in as a reserve replacement – though a doubly determined Stoneman did manage to split the ‘old and young’ partnership of Jon Armstrong and Jenkins.

Heat 10 was effectively the turning point. The hugely impressive partnership of Hopwood & Thomas were out in action again and as they had done regularly on Friday they stormed into a 5-1 winning position. But Mountain is formidable too, especially on his super slick home track and he took first Thomas from behind and then on the second bend of the final lap made it past Hopwood to end the Salford speedster’s unbeaten run. 3-3 instead of 1-5 meant going into the interval the home side had reduced the overall aggregate deficit to six points.

With enormous problems bedevilling the visitors due to a batch of the new ‘yellow-banded’ tyres shredding completely, leaving the Kent side having to seek permission to use older used tyres, the three heats after the break proved disastrous – ending the hopes of taking overall victory in the two legged Easter Chase.

The first of three consecutive 5-1s to the home side was hugely fortuitous – when Luke Bowen’s chain went whilst chasing Halsey. Heat 12 saw Hopwood unable to get past Armstrong and the busy Jenkins.

So to a controversial heat 13. With the scores on aggregate showing now two points lead to the homesters their co-promoter Kevin Jolly appeared on track gesturing wildly at Bowen for reasons not immediately obvious and certainly not warranted.

The tension was certainly ramped up by this unsolicited display as the riders roared from the tapes in the always pivotal heat 13. Going around bends one and two Bowen was caught in a ‘sandwich’ between the two Fen Tigers riders with Halsey pushing the Kent skipper into the Mildenhall number one Mountain, who crashed heavily into the air fence – it was a racing incident seen all the time at the first and second bends of Speedway matches and more often than not that results in ‘all four back’ for the rerun.

Most importantly of all Mountain emerged unscathed but his club boss Jolly was back onto the track to gesture at and then physically confront Bowen; and the referee then announced that the Kings’ number one was to be disqualified from the rerun as the cause of the accident.

The resulting 5-1 suddenly made the margin of the day 16 points, meaning that only two maximums for the visitors would secure overall victory. Jack Thomas did produce an excellent race win, passing one-time Kings rider Sam Woods to take the penultimate heat; but a 5-1 in the final race saw the margin on the afternoon ramp up to a highly deceiving 20 points and so secure the Easter Chase trophy for the side from Suffolk by 94 points to 84.

The SLYDE Kings aim to bounce back this coming week with a two legged challenge (this time for the Tunnel Trophy) against Lakeside Hammers – first leg at Central Park on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon (3pm start time) and then the second leg at Lakeside Speedway in Essex on Friday 21st.

Mildenhall Fen Tigers 55 [94]
Connor Mountain 0 3 3 2′ 8+1
Luke Ruddick 1 R 1′ 0 2+1
Jon Armstrong 1′ 3 3 2′ 2′ 11+3
Danno Verge 2 1 XT 1′ 4+1
Dan Halsey 3 1 3 3 3 13
Sam Woods 3 0 2′ 2 7+1
Jordan Jenkins 2′ 2′ 2 1 3 10+2

Kent SLYDE Kings 35 [84]
Luke Bowen 2′ 2 R X 4+1
Luke Clifton 3 0 3 1 7
Ben Hopwood 3 3 2 1 1 10
Jack Thomas 0 2′ 1′ 3 0 6+2
Nathan Stoneman 1 2 2 1 6
Bradley Andrews 1 1′ 0 0 2+1
Alex Spooner F R 0 0 0

Heat Results
1 Clifton, Bowen, Ruddick, Mountain 52.1 [1-5]
2 (awarded) Woods, Jenkins, Andrews, Spooner (fell rem./fell) no time [6-6]
3 Hopwood, Verge, Armstrong, Thomas 52.5 [9-9]
4 Halsey, Jenkins, Stoneman, Spooner (R) 53.6 [14-10]
5 Armstrong, Bowen, Verge, Clifton 52.3 [18-12]
6 Mountain, Stoneman, Andrews, Ruddick (EF) 52.4 [21-15]
7 Hopwood, Thomas, Halsey, Woods 52.6 [22-20]
8 Clifton, Jenkins, Ruddick, Spooner 53.4 [25-23]
9 Armstrong, Stoneman, Jenkins, Andrews, Verge (exc. tapes) 53.7 [29-25]
10 Mountain, Hopwood, Thomas, Ruddick 53.9 [32-28]
11 Halsey, Woods, Clifton, Bowen (EF) 53.7 [37-29]
12 Jenkins, Armstrong, Hopwood, Andrews 53.2 [42-30]
13 (rerun) Halsey, Mountain, Stoneman, Bowen (exc.) 53.8 [47-31]
14 Thomas, Woods, Verge, Spooner 54.0 [50-34]
15 Halsey, Armstrong, Hopwood, Thomas 54.2 [55-35] [aggregate score: 94 – 84]