One foot ahead for Kent Kings
One foot ahead for Kent Kings

Progression to Speedway’s National League Knock-out Cup Second Round may not be certain yet, but after a first leg victory by a 22 points margin over Stoke on Monday evening at Central Park Stadium, the Kent SLYDE Kings certainly have at least one steel clad boot in the cup quarters for sure.

No questioning the star performer in this match – despite having journeyed to Glasgow, Workington, Leicester and then Sittingbourne for four matches in four days, Jack Thomas was in peerless form for the hosts, recording his first ever five ride full maximum in an exhilarating performance from the ever exuberant teenager.

None better was the final instalment of his memorable nap hand of race victories – when partnered with skipper Luke Bowen, the pairing went up against the Potters’ two top riders Max Clegg and the veteran Tony Atkin in heat 15. What transpired as the tapes rose was the most exciting four laps perhaps ever seen on the Speedway track at Central Park. As he had done on a number of occasions (twice illegally to his cost earlier in proceedings), the former National League Riders’ Champion Clegg was lightning-fast away from the tapes.

In a pincer movement, going down the back straight both of the Kings’ men went past Clegg as they entered the third bend literally locked together at breakneck speed; coming out of the fourth bend one could still have thrown the proverbial blanket over all three.

Bowen was millimetres from Clegg’s back wheel and had to turn sharply to avoid catastrophe but somehow didn’t just stay in contention, he had the speed and momentum to get past the opposing number one. It brought the Central Park crowd to their feet and the maximum heat win (the fourth of the night for the hosts) moved the SLYDE Kings into what looks to be a more than just useful 22 points first leg advantage.

In truth the lead had been built steadily with a consistency across the team. Six of the Kings’ septet recorded at least one paid win and from the race win by Alex Spooner with reserve partner Nick Laurence making it a 4-2 in heat two the hosts were never to look even remotely likely to concede the lead.

A 5-1 quickly followed by the in-form Nathan Stoneman and a refreshingly resurgent Taylor Hampshire. The teenager’s paid double figures score will give a much-needed boost to Hampshire’s confidence at his new home track. Only a heat 13 fall when leading, only for his throttle assembly to fall apart causing a crash into the air fence, denied Stoneman another double figures return.

Anders Rowe was enjoying an excellent match also – anchoring his skipper Bowen to a 5-1 in heat six and getting a heat win of his own two races on from there.

For the visitors it was really a catalogue of woes from more or less the outset. Their skipper Atkin had been late arriving missing his first programmed ride and the former GB Under 19’s national champion, Clegg got himself disqualified from what was a vital match up with Thomas and Hampshire in heat nine.

The lost points in the end added up to become toxic for the Potters’ Cup hopes; with their stand in reserve, Josh Embelton the one rider who will have come out happy from a disappointing evening for the Staffs side. The youngster from the north-east was good value for his paid eight and that should have been more as twice he fell in scoring positions.

The second leg will be up in the Potteries on June 23rd. – before then, the Kings will finish their National Trophy qualification campaign with a double against local rivals Eastbourne – the Eagles from Sussex fly into town next Monday (11/6 , with the normal 6.30pm start time).

Kent SLYDE Kings 56
Luke Bowen 1* 3 3 3 2* 12+2

Anders Rowe 2 2* 3 1 8+1
Jack Thomas 3 3 3 3 3 15 [M]
Taylor Hampshire 2* 1 2* 3 8+2
Nathan Stoneman 2 3 3 FX 8
Nick Laurence 1 0 0 1
Alex Spooner 3 0 X X2M 0♢ 1 4

Stoke Potters 34
Max Clegg 3 2 X 2 2 1 10
Paul Burnett 0 0 2 1* 1* 4+2
Tony Atkin X2M 3 2 2 2 0 9
Adam Extance 1 1 1* 0 2 5+1
Rider Replacement – Rob Shuttleworth
Joe Alcock FX 0 0 0
Josh Embelton 2 F 1 1* 1 1* FX 6+2

1. (re-run) Clegg, Rowe, Bowen, Burnett, 58.4 (3-3)
2. (re-run) Spooner, Embelton, Laurence, Alcock (f.exc), 64.1 (7-5)
3. Thomas, Hampshire, Extance, Embelton (f), Atkin (exc 2mins), 62.3 (12-6)
4. Atkin, Stoneman, Embelton, Spooner, 60.6 (14-10)
5. Thomas, Clegg, Hampshire, Burnett, 60.0 (18-12)
6. Bowen, Rowe, Extance, Alcock, 60.8 (23-13)
7. Stoneman, Atkin, Extance, Laurence, 59.8 (26-16)
8. (re-run) (awarded) Rowe, Burnett, Embelton, Spooner♢ (f.exc) no time (29-19)
9. (re-run) Thomas, Hampshire, Embelton, Alcock, Clegg (exc), 61.3 (34-20)
10. Bowen, Atkin, Rowe, Extance, 59.4 (38-22)
11. Stoneman, Clegg, Burnett, Laurence, 61.3 (41-25)
12. (re-run) Thomas, Atkin, Embelton, Spooner, 61.1 (44-28)
13. (awarded) Bowen, Clegg, Burnett, Stoneman (f.exc), no time (47-31)
14. (awarded) Hampshire, Extance, Spooner, Embelton (f.exc), no time (51-33)
15. Thomas, Bowen, Clegg, Atkin, 60.1 (56-34)


Pictures supplied by Elizabeth Leslie.