Kent Kings pip Eastbourne in thriller
Kent Kings pip Eastbourne in thriller

There seems to be no escaping great controversy when these two adversaries square up to each other and so it was again as Kent clinched a second win of the season at home to local rivals Eastbourne on Monday in front of a large Central Park Stadium crowd.

A seventh win on the spin for the SLYDE Kings – but again it came at a cost with injuries to both their young reserve William O’Keefe and the in-form Nathan Stoneman.  The delays around these two incidents (especially the injury to Stoneman which saw him having to leave the stadium in an ambulance) meant that for a second week running (and actually a third successive match) the full complement of 15 heats could not be reached and this allowed the ill-tempered Eagles to grab a bonus point by reducing the losing deficit from their perspective via two late heat advantages.

It began calmly enough, with the returning Steve Boxall performing the kind of passing manoeuvre which was his trademark when he last occupied the number one race jacket at his home county track – taking victory in the opening heat and establishing a lead the Kings were not ever to relinquish.
The lead would have been quickly up to six points, but when seemingly nailed on for a 5-1 in the next race, O’Keefe was a faller on the final lap.  It was a painful looking fall and for the first time the ambulance was out on track as the teenager was taken away having dislocated his shoulder.

If that was a troubling delay it was nothing compared to the events of heat five.  Stoneman had looked awesome in his opening ride – carrying on where he left off following that maiden maximum of the season away to Plymouth ten days earlier.  Again the Welsh wizard was looking hot to trot, passing both Eastbourne riders down the back straight on the first lap.  Jason Edwards was the leading of the two Eagles and he got badly out of shape entering bends three and four taking out the leading Stoneman.  Typically, the Kent number three was quickly to his feet, though shaken and able to take his place in a rerun with Edwards disqualified for his actions.

Incredibly history repeated itself immediately.  Again Stoneman stormed to the front and on the very same bend of the same lap, this time Tom Brennan for the visitors poleaxed the leader.  This was not a crash even the near indestructible Stoneman was easily going to get up from, such had been the huge and entirely unexpected contact from the recklessly out of control Eastbourne man.  Indeed there was over an hour’s delay while the medics worked on Stoneman and then awaited the county ambulance to take him to Medway Hospital – where thankfully he was to receive a clean bill of health: well in Speedway terms anyhow!

The eventual rerun was of course the formality of a 5-0 with Alex Spooner (who’d looked excellent in winning his opening ride) knowing he was now going to be extremely busy as he would have to cover for two missing colleagues in the rest of the match.

It was clear too after the delays that the match could not realistically go the full distance – and it was a race against time as well as for Travel Plus Tours National League [TPTNL] points, as the curfew loomed.

Very little in the way of co-operation sadly from the belligerent visitors who somehow seemed always to have one rider extra slow to the tapes.  Charley Powell ambled up to the starting gate in heat seven – and then promptly smashed through the tapes.  He received a warning from the referee for what the official deemed a deliberate time-wasting action and maybe the firm stance did prevent a repetition – though the Orpington-based rider was the cause of more unwanted delay at the start of what proved to be the final race, when excluded again this time for exceeding the two minutes in heat 10.  Powell’s avowed dislike for the Central Park track is such he’ll probably regard those two moments as his highlights in a zero score but it left a sour taste in the mouth for those who witnessed what was gamesmanship at best.

No such unsporting behaviour by Eastbourne’s other two Kent-born riders, Georgie Wood and Mark Baseby.  Wood looked in awesome form again recording the fastest time of the evening and in fact the fastest ever heat four victory by any rider around the Central Park circuit on the way to a maximum nine points from three rides.  And Baseby’s wins in heats seven & 10 were the difference between the visitors going away with nothing and snatching a bonus point.  Baseby’s ‘lap of honour’ after his first race victory was unwanted considering the imperative to move proceedings on, but a minor indiscretion compared to other events at this juncture.

The more positive side of the sport was reflected in a collection for Kent’s injured skipper Luke Bowen – who was in attendance on crutches.  The fans who went around the packed grandstand and the terracing for contributions for the stricken Bowen garnered in a very welcome £950 – an amazing amount and Bowen was hugely grateful grabbing the mic to thank the supporters,

“I can’t thank the fans enough for such generosity and for all their best wishes.  Thanks to Len Silver for sanctioning it and for everyone who contributed”

He was able to update on the injury situation too,

“I have an MRI scan booked in for this week – couldn’t be any sooner due to the swelling.  I’ll know then if it’s down to the ligaments being stretched or whether they’ve snapped and obviously will need to take the rehab for either way from that”.

As for his replacement at number one, Canterbury-based Boxall, there was understandable frustration at only getting three rides in as the match was truncated due to the injury delays,

“Obviously it’s not ideal to only have been able to score seven.  I don’t want second places I want to win all my races and am aiming for a maximum against my old side Plymouth when they visit next week”.

The visit of the side from Devon next Monday (6th. August – 6.30pm start time) is in the Knock-out Cup – a second leg quarter final with the SLYDE-sponsored Kings leading by four points from the first leg.  That the eventual winners will face Eastbourne in the Cup semis is about as big an incentive the homesters will have – hold onto your hats if that last four match-up becomes a reality!

Kent SLYDE Kings                                                             32

Steve Boxall                       3  2  2                                     7

Taylor Hampshire             1  1′  3  0                                5+1

Nathan Stoneman           3  N – injured                    3

Anders Rowe                     2′  3  2                                    7+1

Jack Thomas                       2  2                                          4

William O’Keefe               FX – injured                        0

Alex Spooner                     3  0  2′  1′  0                          6+2


Eastbourne Eagles                                                          27

Tom Brennan                     R  X                                         0

Jason Edwards                  2  X  2                                     4

Mark Baseby                      1  3  3                                     7

Charley Powell                  0  0  M                                   0

Georgie Wood                  3  3  3                                     9 [M]

Nick Laurence                    1′  0  1                                    2+1

Charlie Brooks                   2  1  1′  1                                5+1


Heat Results

1 Boxall, Edwards, Hampshire, Brennan (ret.)  58.3  (4-2)

2 (awarded) Spooner, Brooks, Laurence. O’Keefe (fell exc.). no time  (7-5)

3 Stoneman, Rowe, Baseby, Powell 59.9  (12-6)

4 Wood, Thomas, Brooks, Spooner (tapes 15m)  57.6 (14-10)

5 (rerun twice) Rowe, Spooner, Brennan (exc. unfair riding), Edwards (exc. unfair riding), Stoneman (injured) 61.6 (19-10)

6 Wood, Boxall, Hampshire, Laurence 58.3 (22-13)

7 Baseby, Thomas, Spooner, Powell (tapes 15m) 59.8 (25-16)

8 Hampshire, Edwards, Brooks, Spooner 60.4  (28-19)

9 Wood, Rowe, Laurence, no rider 59.9 (30-23)

10 Baseby, Boxall, Brooks, Hampshire. Powell (exc. two mins) 59.6 (32-27)

Abandoned after 10 heats – curfew reached; result stands


Picture supplied by Elizabeth Leslie.