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Third time lucky for Kent Royals?
Third time lucky for Kent Royals?

They say three is the magic number, and as the Kent Royals prepare for the third attempt to face Oxford at the Sandy Lane circuit in Cowley this evening in National Development League action.

The first two attempts to stage this meeting were postponed due to rain and with the first running of the return fixture at Iwade being abandoned, many may start to wonder if there is a jinx surrounding this fixture.

Since the last attempt to stage this meeting, the teams did manage to meet at The Old Gun site meaning there will be a bonus point up for grabs, Oxford currently hold a twelve-point lead after winning 51-39 at the Iwade circuit.

The Kent Royals go into the match at Oxford still without the injured duo of Jack Kingston and Rhys Naylor. The Rider Replacement facility will once again be used to cover for Naylor, with Belle Vue Colts rider Freddy Hodder coming into The Royals line-up to replace Kingston.

On his last appearance at Cowley, Hodder took two race wins on his way to scoring seven-points. Inspired by recent home wins over Workington and Mildenhall, The Royals will once again be looking to their trio of Ben Morley, Nathan Ablitt, and captain Tom Woolley, to provide the backbone of the scoring if Kent are to become the first team to win at Oxford this season.

With three fixtures left to go, The Royals will be looking to finish on a high. The visit to Cowley will see new signing Ashton Vale make his first appearance for The Royals away from home.

For Sussex born Ablitt it’s two matches in two days at the Sandy Lane circuit as the Oxford Cheetahs are in action tonight against Nathan’s SGB Championship side Scunthorpe, so he will get a valuable taster session on the track before The Royals take to the track tomorrow.

The Oxford Chargers currently sit top of the National League as the race for the top two positions and a place in the National League Grand Final hots up.

Like The Royals they only have three fixtures remaining, two of which are at home. They are led by arguably the Division’s top rider, Jordan Jenkins.

The reigning Divisional Riders’ Champ sits atop the NDL averages and has proven near unbeatable around the Sandy Lane circuit.

The rider from Norwich has of course a Kent connection – having been a Kings man back in 2019. And he’s not alone by any means in that regard as the Chargers currently track three other former Central Park-based riders: Ryan Kinsley, was the Royals’ first skipper when they rode as the Kent Kings Development side and is joined by his 2021 teammate Jacob Clouting who drops back to the reserve berth for the clash with Kent and his reserve partner will be 2014 Kent King Jason Garrad.

Jason rode just one season before retiring but decided to make a comeback to the shale sport this season and has been a potent reserve since joining the Chargers.

Clouting dropping to reserve means that Australian born Luke Kileen moves up into the main body of the side for Oxford for the first time in his NDL career, where he will join two of the country’s most highly rated up-and-coming starlets: Jody Scott who has qualified for the GB U21 Final in both of his two seasons in the sport at senior level and the more experienced Henry Atkins, a national Youth Champ himself back in 2011 when, remarkable, aged only 11!

Speaking ahead of Wednesday night’s clash manager Jamie Willis said “We are under no illusions that Oxford is a very strong side but, I will be expecting our boys to fight for every point.

Anything can happen on the night, so we go there looking to gain league points which would help us climb up the league table”.

Willis added “Although it’s been a little while since we last rode, I am confident that our riders will continue their good form into this meeting, which in turn will set us up for the following two weekends meetings”.

The action gets underway at 7.30pm at the Sandy Lane stadium.

Teams in alphabetical order:

Oxford Chargers: Henry Atkins, Jacob Clouting, Jason Garrad, Jordan Jenkins (Capt.), Luke Kileen, Ryan Kinsley, Jody Scott

Kent Royals: Nathan Ablitt, Freddy Hodder (guest) Connor King, Ben Morley, Rhys Naylor – Rider Replacement, Ashton Vale, Tom Woolley (Capt.)