Kent Kings bow out of Play Offs
Kent Kings bow out of Play Offs
Kent bowed out of the Travel Plus Tours National League Play Offs to league toppers Mildenhall – beaten heavily on aggregate but running the champions-elect closer than any other side has managed this term, going down on the night by just two points in a last heat decider.

This was a night when faith was restored to the sport at Central Park Stadium– after the sour taste left by frankly too many bitter confrontations with local rivals Eastbourne, the arrival in town of this young, vibrant and very sporting Mildenhall Fen Tigers side was a welcome breath of fresh air.  A meeting contested in the right spirit and with some simply brilliant racing sent the large Central Park crowd happy in what is now (after defeats in both major event semis over the past four days) the final team match of the Kent Speedway season.

The match started in sensational style.  The visiting pairing of Drew Kemp (surely destined to be a huge star at the very top of the sport) and Ryan Kinsley roared from the start establishing what seemed like a nailed-on heat one maximum (potentially demoralising for a Kent side already facing a numbing 32 points deficit from the first leg).  Anders Rowe though was having none of that  – riding in inspired fashion, he took Kinsley with a brilliant inside pass on the second lap and then astonished the crowd by repeating the feat on the final bend of the third lap over the Fen Tigers young number one Kemp – roaring on to record his fastest ever race winning time.

It got even better in heat two – with Alex Spooner (a real threat to anyone now around Central Park) and a very assured looking Jamie Couzins storming to a 5-1. The four-point lead was soon gone though – Rowe this time not able to quite get past the Fen Tigers’ ‘Guest’, Jason Edwards in heat three.  By heat five the lead on the night for the fearsome Fen Tigers was a deeply ominous looking six points .
But consecutive race wins by skipper Jack Thomas and the ever-willing Nathan Stoneman steadied the ship and the deficit was down to four by the meeting midway point.

Cue the in-form Spooner and a recovering after a pretty torrid week, Taylor Hampshire who put the cat among the proverbial (even though actually this was courtesy of the Fen Tigers getting tamed), delivering an unexpected 5-1 over Kinsley and Aussie reserve Matt Marson in heat nine – Hampshire taking Kinsley on the third lap after initially being back in fourth.  Rowe was first to the chequered flag in heat 10 but it could and should’ve been much better – his skipper Thomas was well clear (and so a 5-1 nailed on) when  his fuel-line came loose and the newly-installed Kent number one ground to a halt.  It was an unfortunate engine failure which cost his side a draw on the night – because the visitors regrouped over the interval and in little more than a few blinks of the eye of the Fen Tiger, they’d roared back to a six points lead.

It needed something to turn around and fast and heat 13 proved an unlucky race for Kemp – missing the start and over doing it on bend two to end in a heap by the air fence. The rerun saw Stoneman do all in his power to join Thomas at the front; but still with just two heats to go the margin was down to four points.  Time to enter stage left, the King Of Heat 14. Hampshire doing it yet again in the penultimate race to win from Jenkins.  It was a race which brought the paramedics a lot of work.  In the initial staging Spooner crashed very heavily on bend two – leaving proceedings in the ambulance with a hurt leg.  Second time of asking, Couzins replaced Spooner and passed Sam Bebee when the Mildenhall man slowed in some clear discomfort. In fact, the Fen Tigers no. 7 had suffered the most freakish of mishaps – somehow an electrical fault on his bike had sent shocks into his leg, heavily full of dangerously conductive metal from pins inserted after a career-threatening injury suffered last year.  The resultant electrical shock saw the youngster having to pull off the track and fall, shaking onto the deck by the pit gate. There was understandable concern and lengthy treatment before fortunately he was able to recover.

Time then for a final heat decider. Kemp gated with a maturity way beyond his tender years and Jenkins joined him, only to spin out and fall heavily on the third bend. To his immense credit the Suffolk side’s skipper cleared the track in double quick fashion to allow the race to be concluded – a 3-3 which preserved that two-point advantage for his side. The awesome Mildenhall outfit were still unbeaten but given a real run for their money by the pluckiest of performances by the SLYDE-backed Kings.

The Kent Speedway season closes next Monday (8/10) with the annual staging of the world’s longest running individual championship event – the Laurels (now branded as the Kent Laurels) for the WJ Cearns Memorial Trophy and a healthy cash prize.  The five Kent SLYDE Kings (Thomas, Rowe, Stoneman, Hampshire & Spooner) are joined by seven others (including popular visitors Richard Andrews, Danno Verge and Jon Armstrong plus two of the best riders currently without TPTNL clubs, Kyle Hughes and new young starlet Daniel Gilkes) in what’s sure to be the closest battle so far for the event resurrected at Central Park six years ago. The action gets underway at 6.30pm and will be followed by the traditional club awards presentations and ‘goodbye to the riders’ in the Central Bar.

Kent SLYDE Kings  44
Jack Thomas 0 3 R 3 2 8
Anders Rowe 3 1 1 2 3 1* 11+1
Rider Replacement – Paul Hurry
Taylor Hampshire 0 0 2* 0 3 5+1
Nathan Stoneman 2 3 1 7
Jamie Couzins 2* 1 0 0 1 4+1
Alex Spooner 3 0 1* 3 2 N 9+1

Mildenhall Fen Tigers  46
Drew Kemp 2 3 3 3 X 3 14
Rider Replacement – Danny Ayres
Jason Edwards [G] 2* 1* 1* 2* 3 9+4
Jordan Jenkins 3 2* 2 2 2 F 11+1
Ryan Kinsley 1* 3 2 1 2 9+1
Matt Marson 1 0 0 1 2
Sam Bebee 0 1 0 R 1

Heat details
1. Rowe, Kemp, Kinsley, Thomas  57.7 (3-3)
2. Spooner, Couzins, Marson, Bebee  60.1 (8-4)
3. Jenkins, Edwards, Rowe, Hampshire  59.1 (9-9)
4. Kinsley, Stoneman, Bebee, Spooner  58.8 (11-13)
5. Kemp, Jenkins, Couzins, Hampshire 58.8 (12-18)
6. Thomas, Kinsley, Rowe, Marson  59.2 (16-20)
7. Stoneman, Jenkins, Edwards, Couzins  59.3 (19-23)
8. Kemp, Rowe, Spooner, Bebee  58.4 (22-26)
9. Spooner, Hampshire, Kinsley, Marson  60.3 (27-27)
10. Rowe, Jenkins, Edwards, Thomas (EF) 59.1 (30-30)
11. Kemp, Edwards, Stoneman, Couzins  58.8 (31-35)
12. Edwards, Spooner, Marson, Hampshire  59.5 (33-39)
13. (re-run)Thomas, Kinsley, Stoneman, Kemp (fell exc.)  57.9 (37-41)
14. (re-run) Hampshire, Jenkins, Couzins, Bebee (ret. – elec. shock) Spooner (fell inj. NS) 59.8 (41-43)
15. Kemp, Thomas, Rowe, Jenkins (fell) 59.5 (44-46)
Aggregate: Kent 73 Mildenhall 107

Pictures supplied by Elizabeth Leslie