Kent Kings 35-36 Thurrock Hammers
Kent Kings 35-36 Thurrock Hammers
A single point reverse meant a third straight annual Tunnel Trophy defeat for the Kent TouchTec Kings against a team called ‘Hammers’ – in this guise it was the newly rebranded Thurrock Hammers who inflicted a 36-35 defeat at Central Park in an eventful and truncated meeting on Bank Holiday Monday. 

All thoughts though are with Kent second string Alex Spooner – becoming the second Kings’ rider in as many home meetings this Speedway season to end the afternoon taking a County Ambulance trip to hospital.  In Spooner’s case this came as a result of an alarming crash in the initial staging of a long-delayed heat eight.

That this was a ‘challenge’ in name only was immediately apparent, with riders going for it right from the off as if it was a Cup Final; and that was certainly evident in the very first race.  Drew Kemp of Kent made the start over Alfie Bowtell of Thurrock, who then switched up the inside and very tightly closed any door; this saw Kemp fall and resulted in the TouchTec Kings’ number one being somewhat controversially disqualified.  The rerun of the race saw Bowtell win from Spooner who made up the 15 metres handicap imposed for a tapes indiscretion to pass Nick Laurence – a 4-2 advantage to the visitors thus opening proceedings.

The hosts hit back with a 4-2 of their own in the reserves race to level the scores, Dan Gilkes winning in the second fastest ever time for a heat two at Central Park; before going in front with a stylish 4-2 in Heat 3.  Anders Rowe pulled off one his trademark inside moves – this time inside the all-time Kent record point scorer Ben Morley, captaining the Hammers today, who had made an electric start. However, Rowe found the smallest of gaps coming off bend four on the opening lap and pulled away for a memorable victory.

The fourth race of the afternoon saw the 2019 Kings captain, Rob Ledwith pick up from where he finished off in the first home meeting, with a stunning tapes to flag victory over former Kent rider Nathan Stoneman.  The race however wasn’t without incident, as on the last lap Stoneman got out of shape with the plucky Kings teenager Nathan Ablitt crashing out, possibly expecting the Hammers’ heat leader to come off – a difficult call for the ref who went in favour of the swashbuckling Stoneman. The shared race kept the Kings in the lead by two points, 13-11.

Heat five was another great encounter, this time between the respective star men for each side, Rowe and Bowtell; the duo exchanged passes on the opening two laps before the visitor got past Rowe this time to keep the lead and once again share the heat points with the Kings packing in the minor places.

The Kings extended their advantage to four points in the sixth race, though this after the unfortunate Spooner touched the tapes and then, visiting reserve Sheldon Davies missed the subsequent two minutes time allowance creating a further delay.  When the race did get going the speedy Kemp, making light of a heavily-strapped knee, took a tapes to flag victory over the in-form Stoneman; whilst Spooner got the better of one-time Kent Kings reserve, William O’Keefe.

The advantage was cut to two points once again in heat seven, where it was very much a case of the former beating the current: as former Kent captain Morley, got the better of the current skipper, Ledwith; and at the back one time Kent reserve Danno Verge claimed the third place point, after current Kent reserve Gilkes had fallen and was disqualified in the initial staging.

The fateful eighth heat was the turning point of the match – with, as previously mentioned, Alex Spooner falling heavily: hitting a patch of grip coming out of the second bend and crashing into the fence down the back straight bouncing back onto the track, where the immediately  following Davies couldn’t avoid running into him. The subsequent delay of nearly an hour, didn’t see racing recommence until 5:45, and trainee referee Si Humphrey-Kennett did a fantastic job of getting five races completed in the remaining available time.

The rerun of heat eight saw the remaining homester, Ablitt holding a very clear lead when he spun and fell on the first bend of the third lap. This allowed the visiting duo of  Laurence and Davies to complete an unlikely 5-0 – this moved the visitors from being behind to instead be three points ahead and ultimately was to be the match-winning moment.

The next races were all shared, before a bizarre and eventful heat 12, which, with the two-hour curfew point reached,  turned out to be the final race. The Kings needed a 5-1 to win the match and at one stage it looked like this was to be the outcome, until the hugely unlucky Ablitt suffered bike problems.  He somehow coaxed his sick bike around and with O’Keefe a faller, salvaged a point. Rowe won decisively from Davies – indeed the Kent rider of the night was so far ahead he had to slow to avoid lapping his troubled team mate.  The 4-2 wasn’t enough though to avoid a solitary point separating the sides in favour of the Hammers.

Congratulations go to Thurrock and best wishes for their search for a new home track; but the thoughts of all from both camps at the end were very much with Alex Spooner, so it was a relief when the 18-year-old was able to update after treatment,

“Just left the hospital and can’t think of anything that doesn’t hurt right now.  After a CT scan and x-rays, thankfully nothing is broken, however I have a part dislocation and rotary cuff damage to my shoulder – other than that I’m just badly battered and bruised!”

They’ll be an anxious wait now to see if Spooner will be fit for Kent’s upcoming fixtures away to Stoke on Sunday (May 12th) and next Monday (May 13th) at home to Plymouth as the TouchTec Kings get to begin their competitive fixtures in earnest. That next home match is in the National Trophy vs Plymouth Gladiators at Central Park Stadium on Monday 13th. May with the start time reverting to the normal 6.30pm.

Kent TouchTec Kings   35

Drew Kemp  FX, 3, 2        5

Alex Spooner  2, 1, FX     3

Anders Rowe  3, 2, 2, 3 10

Jordan Jenkins  1, 1′, 1′    3+2

Robert Ledwith  3, 2, 1′ 6+1

Daniel Gilkes  3, EX, 1, 2 6

Nathan Ablitt  1, F, F, 1′, 1  3+1

Thurrock Hammers   36

Alfie Bowtell  3, 3, 3 9 [M]

Nick Laurence  1, 0, 3, 0 4

Danno Verge  0, 1, R      1

Ben Morley  2, 3, 3 8

Nathan Stoneman  2, 2, 3 7

Sheldon Davies  2, XM, 2, 2 6

William O’Keefe  0, 1′, 0, 0, F 1+1

Heat Results

1 (rerun twice) Bowtell, Spooner, Laurence, Kemp (fell exc.)  58.8 [2-4]

2 (rerun) Gilkes, Davies, Ablitt, O’Keefe 57.9  [6-6]

3 Rowe, Morley, Jenkins, Verge  57.8 [10-8]

4 (awarded) Ledwith, Stoneman, O’Keefe, Ablitt (fell) no time  [13-11]

5 Bowtell, Rowe, Jenkins, Laurence  58.8 [16-14]

6 (rerun) Kemp, Stoneman, Spooner (15m – tapes), O’Keefe, Davies (exc. 2M)  58.5 [20-16]

7 (rerun twice) Morley, Ledwith, Verge, Gilkes (fell exc.) 59.1  [22-20]

8 Laurence, Davies, Ablitt (fell), Spooner (fell exc.) 66.3  [22-25]

9 Stoneman, Rowe, Jenkins, O’Keefe 60.1  [25-28]

10 Morley, Kemp, Gilkes, Verge (ret.)  58.6 [28-31]

11 Bowtell, Gilkes, Ledwith, Laurence  59.9 [31-34]

12 Rowe, Davies, Ablitt, O’Keefe  62.1 [35-36]

Abandoned after 12 heats – curfew RESULT STANDS