Kent Kings set for three big tests
Kent Kings set for three big tests

Flaming June opens in suitably hot style for the Kent SLYDE Kings with three matches in three days – book-ended by the two legs of a First Round Knock-out Cup tie against the Stoke Potters.

By the time the two old adversaries go into battle at Central Park Stadium on Monday evening (4th. June – 6.30pm start time), both sides will know what they need to do to get through to the KOC quarter final – where Plymouth Devils await the victors. The first leg of the Potters vs Kings is on Saturday evening up in the Potteries.

Kent have a change enforced upon them in the away leg as their teenaged heat leader Jack Thomas will be riding on Saturday night for his SGB Championship side Glasgow Tigers. The SLYDE Kings’ team boss hasn’t had to look too far away for the ‘Guest’ to come in to cover for Thomas, opting for 2017 Kent rider Ben Hopwood.

The Manchester-based racer who was many people’s pick of Rider of the Year last season at Central Park, actually top scored for his then team when the Kings finally broke their Loomer Rd. hoodoo last term; and a repeat of that paid 14 points return this time would be a very welcome outcome for a Guest choice which almost picked itself. Also back from that 47-43 victory last September is skipper Luke Bowen of course (who also posted a double figures score), Anders Rowe who reeled off three heat wins and fellow nine points scorer that evening, Taylor Hampshire.

With Jacob Clouting still targeting the second leg on Monday for his comeback from a broken foot, the SLYDE-sponsored Kings retain Nick Laurence in the reserve berth. Laurence can also point to a match-winning contribution on his last visit to Stoke – scoring paid nine for his 2017 side Lakeside Hammers in the Essex club’s win there last term.

There’s a rather more youthful look about a strengthened Potters septet this campaign – not least at number one where one finds former Cradley man Max Clegg, The 21-year-old has packed a lot into his six year career – league titles twice with the Heathens in the National League followed by higher division titles at Edinburgh and in 2016 with Wolves; plus individual glory that same memorable year taking the National League Riders’ Championship title and the British Under 19 title.

The youngsters at reserve are William O’Keefe (fit again after injury) and a rider who’ll be making his Central Park devbut in the second leg on Monday, local Potteries-born teenager Joe Alcock.

Adam Extance is a comeback man this term – the part time stunt man having missed the last two seasons with a knee injury. And back in a Potters’ race jacket is a Travel Plus Tours National League title winner from last year (when obviously with Belle Vue Colts), Rob Shuttleworth. And if these 2018 Potters are aiming to be as hot as a local kiln, then there’s a touch of ice in the form of veteran skipper Tony Atkin.

Four times a national Grasstrack champion and a World Longtrack GP competitor at the start of the century, Atkin has also a British Open Ice Racing title on his matchless ova racing CV. As they’re the top two Welsh born racers in the UK currently, the battle between Atkin and the massively in-form Nathan Stoneman is certain to be a real highlight of both legs.

The first leg on Saturday 2nd June, 7pm start time is at Loomer Road Stadium, Chesterton,Newcastle Under Lyme, Staffordshire.ST5 7LB

The second leg is at Central Park Stadium on Monday 4th. June – gates at 5pm for a 6.30pm tapes up.

Picture supplied by Elizabeth Leslie.