BACK in June 2010, Swindon were the last visiting team to leave Brandon having not been defeated, when they came away with a 45-45 draw.
Almost twelve months on, the Robins went one better as they took overall victory from a meeting which had the Buildbase Bees yet again frustrated by being without key riders.
The scorechart tells the story of where this match was won and lost – 13 (paid 14) at reserve from eight rides for the Robins; four (paid five) from eleven for the Bees, whose problems in that department were exacerbated by the fact that they were operating rider-replacement for Kenni Larsen, fifth in the averages, meaning only Ryan Fisher in the top five could cover one of the rides.
Larsen is a track reserve at this weekend’s Danish Grand Prix, and ironically it is very conceivable that Nicolai Klindt could, and maybe should, have been involved in some capacity at Copenhagen. As it was, he was overlooked for Wild Card or track reserve duty, and his availability for the Robins was another big factor in their win, as the Dane made fast starts to win both Heat 13 and Heat 15 as his team-mate Scott Nicholls hit trouble.
It was a Coventry 2007 reunion in the No.1 positions as Rory Schlein guested for the Bees in place of Emil Sayfutdinov, and he certainly didn’t let anyone down with a committed display, and the home side also got the points required from elsewhere in the top five through Ryan Fisher, Edward Kennett and Przemek Pawlicki, who also had his younger brother as an interested spectator.
Schlein was away well from gate three to beat Nicholls to turn one in Heat 1, and a lock-up from the Robins man gave Richard Sweetman the chance to come through on the inside, but he was then outpaced by Nicholls and Jesper B Monberg on the outside as they went up the back straight, and Swindon salvaged a 3-3.
Cory Gathercole was also successful from gate three in the next as the Robins edged into the lead, Sweetman splitting his fellow Aussie and guest Richard Lawson, and the early signs for Bees were fairly encouraging as a competitive Heat 3 went the home side’s way with a big 5-1, Fisher making the best start and Pawlicki displaying plenty of pace in second place and often throttling back to remain second to his team-mate.
Kennett took Klindt wide on the second bend of Heat 4 which was enough to rule the Dane out of challenging for a win, although it didn’t prevent him from packing in with Gathercole for a shared race, and another 3-3 followed in Heat 5 with Nicholls fending off a typically strong challenge from Pawlicki, who eventually called the chase off after a couple of hairy moments on the third lap.
Things began to go wrong for the Bees in Heat 6, firstly when Schlein was outgated by Klindt and Lawson. He quickly moved into second place with a smart cut-back at the start of the second lap, but going into lap three Schlein’s clutch exploded sending him down on turn one, and the only saving grace was that he was fit to continue – although the Robins were awarded a 5-1 to put them back in front.
Kennett was beaten to the first bend by Simon Stead in Heat 7 but major damage looked to be being averted as guest Jerran Hart held a fine second place – but he made a slight error at the end of lap three, spun and fell, and that enabled Maciej Janowksi, who looked off the pace at that stage, to come through for a Swindon 4-2.
And the lead crept up to six points with another 4-2 in Heat 8, Gathercole making it eight points out of nine by holding back the challenge of Fisher as Monberg controlled third place over Sweetman.
Bees needed to find a response from somewhere and they got it in spectacular fashion in Heat 9 with Fisher finally showing it was possible to make it off the unfavoured gate four, whilst Pawlicki launched a strong challenge on Klindt. On the last lap he made the longest of back straights, charged up the inside and then held control on the final bend as Klindt was sent wide, and the Pole came through for a brilliant second place to get the score back to 26-28.
Schlein was a fine winner of Heat 10, outgated again but blasting his way between Stead and Janowski on the back straight – although Swindon’s Pole was much more on the pace on this occasion as he made a strong return challenge on Schlein, who only just brought a sick bike home in first place.
Heat 11 saw Nicholls at his very best to defeat Kennett, the new British Champion cutting back on the back straight to take the lead, then being re-passed going into the second lap but repeating his earlier move to go back into first place. It was a high-speed, fair battle between the two riders but just as important was another third place for Monberg which put Swindon four-up once again.
Ronnie Russell may have thought things were about to turn against him in Heat 12 when Gathercole, who was contesting turns one and two with Fisher, suddenly lifted and went down, with Janowski having nowhere to go except into his team-mate. Gathercole, though, was quickly to his feat and Janowski, after treatement, was also able to walk back in – and then he displayed that he had very much got Brandon weighed up with a great second bend to round Fisher and save a 3-3 for his side after Gathercole’s disqualification.
The writing appeared to be on the wall for the Bees when Klindt and Nicholls gated in Heat 13, but Nicholls never looked totally comfortable, lifting on a couple of occasions before Schlein dived through on the inside. Nicholls then appeared to be losing power and on turn three he ground to a halt sending Kennett through as well, and Bees had got away with a 3-3 and still had a glimmer of hope in the meeting.
A draw looked their best hope, though, unless they had a stroke of luck in Heat 14, and a 3-3 was indeed all they got, and that was courtesy of a brilliant switch-back by Pawlicki off the second bend to move inside Stead, who must have felt he was covering that line. Stead and Gathercole then had a couple of anxious moments but did bring home the shared race, all of which left Bees needing a miracle 5-1 in Heat 15 to snatch a draw.
Off gates 2 and 4, it was never going to be easy, and Klindt and Nicholls duly repeated their Heat 13 starts to essentially set the seal on proceedings, although the one thing that prevented it from being a perfect night for the Robins was that Schlein put a good move on Nicholls up the back straight on lap three, which meant the visitors had to be content with three points rather than four.
It was still three more points than Coventry secured, however, and whilst the result partly underlined the overall competitiveness of the Elite League this season the Bees know that if they could only have put their full side on track, several of their recent results could have been very different.