Late dramatic win for Kent Kings
Late dramatic win for Kent Kings
Whoever it was who first coined the maxim that lightning never strikes twice clearly didn’t ever attend Speedway at Central Park Stadium!

Because in an extraordinary climax again, the Kent SLYDE Kings for a second home match running, repeated the trick of never leading at any point until the end of the final heat – a final heat 5-1 once more snatching victory from the very jaws of defeat.
The pairing delivering the ultimate sting to a bamboozled Coventry Bees outfit in this Travel Plus Tours National League [TPTNL]encounter was Luke Bowen and Jack Thomas, whose heroics in matching fashion a fortnight ago had beaten Eastbourne.  In another parallel to that match against the Eagles, Bowen’s disappointment in the opening race, then led to the Kings’ number one proceeding to go unbeaten by an opponent as he masterminded a comeback, which on this occasion had seen the homesters trail at one point by eight points and be behind their opponents at the competition of 13 of the 15 heats.

The opening salvoes promised little for Chris Hunt’s charges – still it seemed suffering the hangover of the bad reverse they’d suffered in the subsequent return fixture against their local rivals from Sussex.

Bowen’s fall when the leading Connor Mountain turned sharply, leaving the Kent skipper with nowhere to go and hitting the deck saw an opening heat 5-1 to the exiled West Midlanders (the homeless Bees use Leicester as their rented track currently). Three more race winners for the visitors in successive heats really cemented the excellent start they’d made and after four heats the lead was a worrying eight points.

Thomas had clear mechanical woes and swapped bikes in his first ride just too late to avoid a 15 metres handicap – fatal against such an accomplished performer as the Bees’ skipper Jon Armstrong.

There was no time to lick his wounds though, as with Nathan Stoneman missing through injury, it was all hands to the pump and the teenager Thomas was back out in heat five.  And to excellent effect too – securing not just a first heat win for the hosts but claiming the scalp of always impressive Coventry number one Connor Mountain.
Mountain was also an apt description of what the Kings still needed to climb; but a Bowen win in the next race and the busy Thomas again in heat seven saw the gap now reduced to just four.

Time for Taylor Hampshire to come to the party.  Slow starting but fast finishing had just left all frustrated in his first two outings, but the youngster’s match (and who knows, maybe his season too) was turned around entirely by a brilliant win in heat eight – coming from behind to leave Jamie Halder in his wake.

Fellow second string Anders Rowe was contributing significantly too – with three second places in his first four rides.
Heat 10 finally (albeit briefly) saw parity restored.  Bowen and Hampshire delivering a maximum.  Undaunted the Bees swarmed back with successive heat wins from Mountain and a first time Central Park race winner, the Tweedsider Ruddick.

So with three heats to go the gap was now four points.  Cue, Bowen & Thomas vs. Mountain & Armstrong part one  – a thrilling heat 13 battle won by the Kent no. 1 with Thomas finally getting round the veteran Armstrong on the last bend of the third lap.
Heat 14 was crucial as it has been on other occasions this season at Central Park and the hero this time was Rowe – gating only in third and behind both Bees he somehow stretched every sinew of his diminutive frame and hanging on by the seat of his kevlars got man and machine between his two opponents to take the lead.  Racing partner Alex Spooner deserved huge credit for battling gamely and so narrowly missing out on catching Halder at the death,

So, 41-43 it was going into the final race, a reprise of heat 13 and a scenario exactly matching two weeks’ previously.  The crowd wondered could history repeat itself.  It did – Bowen was lightning quick out of the traps and Thomas passed Mountain down the back straight.  The two Kings’ men then moved decisively ahead and now surely only calamity could stop the victory.  There was calamity, but it was at the rear and affecting Armstrong, who fell and became dangerous entangled with his machine.

The race was stopped; and the crowd simultaneously held its breath for two reasons – would a rerun be ordered; and how was Armstrong? The first was answered promptly with the referee correctly pointing out that two laps had been completed with the result established thus awarding the 5-1 which clinched the most dramatic of wins.  The second question did stall the celebrations – but when the Bees’ skipper rose off the track unharmed, it was his rival Bowen who sportingly put him on the back of his bike to come around to the receive the acclaim of the grandstand.  It takes two teams to make a good match; and this was an outstanding one!

Such dramatic final race heroics will keep the crowds flocking to Central Park but could be at the expense of the well-being of the management -as team boss Chris Hunt, puffing out his cheeks, admitted,

“I may need medical attention if it carries on like this every week! It was a brilliant comeback for sure and fair play to all the lads who kept fighting in every race and to the end of the match.  We were all shell-shocked by that heavy defeat at Eastbourne and to do what we did today and claim the league points against very strong opposition is the perfect tonic”

The SLYDE Kings face a very busy period starting this Friday with a league visit to Plymouth, followed on the Sunday by their first match of July at TPTNL favourites Mildenhall. Stoke are scheduled as visitors (again this is in League action) before a four matches in seven days period is completed over the salty Solent at Ryde taking on the Isle of Wight on Thursday week.

Kent SLYDE Kings  46
Luke Bowen FX 3 3 3 2* 11+1
Taylor Hampshire 1 0 1 3 2* 7+1
Anders Rowe 2 1 2 2 3 10
Rider replacement – Nathan Stoneman
Jack Thomas 2♢ 3 3 2 1 3 14
Jacob Clouting 1*♢ 0 M R 1+1
Alex Spooner 2 0 0 1* 0 0 3+1
Coventry Bees 44
Connor Mountain 3 2 3 2 1 11
Luke Harris 2* 0 1* 1 4+2
Luke Ruddick 1 1* 1 3 6+1
Danny Phillips 3 2 X 2 7
Jon Armstrong 3 2 3 0 FX 8
Ryan Macdonald FX FX R 0
Jamie Halder 3 1 2 1 1* 8+1
1. (re-run) Mountain, Harris, Hampshire, Bowen (f.exc), 57.8 (1-5)
2. (re-run) (awarded) Halder, Spooner, Clouting♢, Macdonald (f.exc), no time (4-8)
3. Phillips, Rowe, Ruddick, Hampshire, 61.4 (6-12)
4. Armstrong, Thomas♢, Halder, Spooner, 61.5 (8-16)
5. Thomas, Mountain, Rowe, Harris, 60.0 (12-18)
6. (re-run) (awarded) Bowen, Armstrong, Hampshire, Macdonald f.exc), no time (16-20)
7. Thomas, Phillips, Ruddick, Clouting, 59.7 (19-23)
8. Hampshire, Halder, Harris, Spooner, 62.0 (22-26)
9. Armstrong, Rowe, Spooner, Macdonald ( ret), 61.2 (25-29)
10 (re-run) Bowen, Hampshire, Ruddick, Phillips (f.exc) 59.1 (30-30)
11. Mountain, Thomas, Harris, Spooner, Clouting (exc 2mins), 60.0 (32-34)
12. Ruddick, Rowe, Halder, Clouting (ret), 62.4 (34-38)
13. Bowen, Mountain, Thomas, Armstrong, 59.1 (38-40)
14. (re-run) Rowe, Phillips, Halder, Spooner, 62.8 (41-43)
15. (awarded) Thomas, Bowen, Mountain, Armstrong (f.exc) no time (46-44)