Uphill battle for Kent Kings
Uphill battle for Kent Kings

It’s not often in a Speedway match that a team leads from the opening heat all the way up to going into heat 11 still ahead and then succumbs to a 13-point defeat.

But 13 was indeed that unlucky number for the Kent SLYDE Kings, as a late meeting slump at Birmingham away in the Easter Cup on Wednesday (25/4) saw them with something to do when the teams reconvene for the second leg at Central Park Stadium next Monday.

That early lead came courtesy of a 5-1 in the very opening heat when not only skipper Luke Bowen (recovered from a bout of illness which had seen him miss the Jon Armstrong Testimonial individual meeting the previous weekend) take the scalp of his counterpart in the Brummies’ side Tom Bacon, but so did young Anders Rowe – setting up the perfect of starts for the visitors.

Bowen was to go on to record three heat wins and with Rowe, Nathan Stoneman and Jack Thomas (back at the Perry Barr scene of his glorious GB U-21 semi just seven days earlier) all also chipping in with race wins (making six in total), it really defied logic that a double figures reverse for Chris Hunt’s charges was the eventual outcome.

That this did happen can really be pinned at the door of events in heat two. The reserves race saw the highly rated former national youth champ Leon Flint storm into a lead but his racing partner, the absolute Speedway rookie Arran Butcher fell behind him and damaged his elbow. It was the earliest of departures for the Birmingham new boy and meant that the homesters would be forced into using Flint to cover his reserve partner’s rides.

It was an ill wind which blew absolutely no harm for the Brummies, Flint recording a match-winning 16 points from his seven rides. One can only speculate what difference they’d have been to the score line should the injured Arran instead have got a “Butcher’s hook” in..

With race wins for Thomas and Bowen in heats four & five , a third into the match and the SLYDE Kings had a handy five points advantage – with all looking set fair for a fine showing in the first leg of this delayed ‘Easter’ challenge.
Thomas & Bowen’s heat leader partner Nathan Stoneman then joined the party with an excellent win over the busy Flint in heat seven; and even more impressively, Rowe swept past the young Birmingham reserve in the following race – meaning that the half way point in proceedings had been reached and the pack of travelling Kent fans were dreaming of being able to take an actual advantage home to Central Park for next week’s decisive second leg.

The hosts were beginning to warm to the task in hand though and get to grips with their home circuit. Aussie Mitchell Davey showed track craft to get past Thomas in heat nine and Bacon repeated the trick to pass early race leader Taylor Hampshire (back at the track he called home last term) in heat 10.

That saw the long-held lead reduced to a solitary point and heat 11 finally had the Brummies’ nudging ahead, Danyon Hume ending the previously unbeaten Bowen’s run of race wins.

The match was lost though, when an entirely out of blue hat trick of 5-1s by the hosts turned things completely their way in heats 12 to 14. Stoneman’s unfortunate fall and subsequent exclusion in the first staging of heat 12 gave Flint & Davey their side’s first maximum of the evening. And like a West Midlands bus, another two came along straightaway – the captain Bowen being the next of the visitors to fall in heat 13 and Hampshire and Perry Barr first-timer Jacob Clouting unable to get the better of Flint and Callum Walker in the penultimate heat with the hosts now home and hosed.

Bowen steadied the ship in heat 15 (having to take on and beat Hume & Bacon in the rerun after Thomas had completed the set of late meeting falls by the Kings’ top three) and the final outcome was a 38-51 defeat. Certainly, a margin few could possibly have foreseen just a handful of heats earlier – but certainly not insurmountable for the second leg which is on this coming Monday (30/4) at Central Park Stadium.

Kent speedway’s delayed and much anticipated opening meeting of their home 2018 season is at the usual start time of 6.30pm.

Birmingham 51
Tom Bacon 1, 3, 3, 2′, 1′ 10+2
Layne Cupitt 0, 1, 0, Fx 1
Mitchell Davey 3, 2, 3, 2′ 10+1
Callum Walker 0, 1′, 1, 2′ 4+1
Danyon Hume Fx, 1′, 3, 3, 2 9+1
Arran Butcher Fx (withdrawn – inj. 0
Leon Flint 3, 2, 2, 2, 1, 3, 3 16

Kent SLYDE Kings 38
Luke Bowen 3, 3, 2, 0, 3 11
Anders Rowe 2′, 0, 3, 0 5+1
Nathan Stoneman 2, 3, 2, Fx 7
Taylor Hampshire 1′, 0, 1′, 1 2+2
Jack Thomas 3, 2, 2, 1, Fx 8
Alex Spooner 2, 1, 0, 0 3
Jacob Clouting Fx, 0, 1, 0 1
Heat Results
1 Bowen, Rowe, Bacon, Cupitt 61.17 [1-5]
2 (rerun/awarded) Flint, Spooner, Clouting (fell exc.), Butcher (fell exc.) no time [4-7]
3 Davey, Stoneman, Hampshire, Walker 61.3 [7-10]
4 (rerun) Thomas, Flint, Spooner, Hume (fell exc.) 62.95 [9-14]
5 (rerun) Bowen, Davey, Walker, Rowe (Exc. T 15m) 62.18 [12-17]
6 Bacon, Thomas, Cupitt, Spooner 62.64 [16-19]
7 Stoneman, Flint, Hume, Hampshire 62.92 [19-22]
8 Rowe, Flint, Cupitt, Clouting 62.98 [22-25]
9 Davey, Thomas, Walker, Spooner 61.9 [26-27]
10 (awarded) Bacon, Spooner, Hampshire, Cupitt (fell – exc.) no time [29-30]
11 Hume, Bowen, Flint, Rowe 62.07 [33-32]
12 (rerun) Flint, Davey, Clouting, Stoneman (fell exc.), Spooner (injured) 66.52 [38-33]
13 Hume, Bacon, Thomas, Bowen (fell rem.) 63.13 [43-34]
14 Flint, Walker, Hampshire, Clouting 62.29 [48-35]
15 (rerun twice) Bowen, Hume, Bacon, Thomas (fell exc.) 62.19 [51-38]