Kent Kings set for massive test
Kent Kings set for massive test

Kent SLYDE Kings make the short journey over the county boundary to the Arlington Raceway in Sussex on Saturday for the most important fixture in the Central Park-based club’s five-year history.

Defending a slender two points lead from last Monday’s first leg, Chris Hunt’s charges know that they face the challenge of their careers to conquer the Eastbourne Eagles to prevail on aggregate in the Travel Plus National League [TPNL] semi-final.

The SLYDE-sponsored Kings are boosted by being back to full-strength with Kiwi rider Bradley Andrews returning to the septet after suffering from a broken finger. And of course, no one in the Kent camp (and indeed those in the home side’s ‘eyrie’) will forget that just three weeks ago the Kings went to Eastbourne and shattered the hosts’ previously unbeaten home TPNL record that stretched back over nearly three whole seasons, emerging triumphant by 49-40.

With a draw or even a one-point defeat enough to see the side through to a first ever Play Off Final, they will draw inspiration from that monumental performance. Skipper Luke Bowen top-scored on that occasion with a close to perfect 14 points score and his inspiration will push the Kings forward again. Also in double figures in that historic none points win were Dan Greenwood, Jack Thomas and George Hunter.

And the one former Eagles rider in the Kent ranks Ben Hopwood is able to take his place having been released from duties with his SGB Championship side Newcastle. Hopwood was man of the match in Monday’s first leg win though many of the plaudits also went the side’s youngest rider, Anders Rowe who performed some extraordinary passing moves.

All the seven Kings know they need to be on top form and after 15 wins in their last 18 matches, it’s clear they are certainly the form team of the TPNL.

Eastbourne again have no place for their named rider Charlie Saunders – the elusive Wiltshire-based three-times GB U-21 championship runner-up who oddly has only appeared once for the Eagles since being placed into their one to seven.

Coming in to take the ubiquitous spare slot at reserve is newly-crowned GB Youth Champion in the 500cc class, Drew Kemp.

Recently turned 15 years of age, the Ipswich-born protégé has been announced by Mildenhall as a signing for next season though oddly is appearing for Eastbourne in both their Knock-out Cup matches and now the Play Offs – the Eagles management for a second year running taking advantage of the incongruous ruling which says points scored in the TPNL Play Offs don’t count towards season-long averages.

The hosts have been hit though by a ban affecting their heat leader Jake Knight. Just deposed as number one by Josh Bailey in the new averages, Knight incurred the wrath of the authorities by failing to take his place in last month’s National League Riders Championship.

Saturday is the second match of Knight’s ban and this time the homesters can only cover his absence by the Rider Replacement facility rather than by the use of a Guest – with all the other six riders (including Bailey) able to take a ride each to cover for Knight.

Eastbourne have named Jason Edwards (even younger than Kemp and who has already ridden for Lakeside Hammers in the Play Off semis) as number eight – teenager Edwards won his first race in the Eagles race jacket in the first leg on Monday.

The meeting starts at 7.30pm on Saturday 7th. October at Eastbourne Speedway, Arlington Stadium, Arlington Road West (just off A22), Hailsham, East Sussex – Post code for SAT NAV purposes:

BN27 3RE