CONDITIONS were tricky but the Buildbase Bees made the best of them to record a comfortable win and set themselves up well for two more important home matches.
It hadn’t been the best of weeks, even though Coventry themselves had not completed a meeting, with Lakeside’s win at Birmingham on Thursday putting the Hammers firmly back into the top-four battle, and with Peterborough taking six points out of six at home and Wolves also drawing at Belle Vue, it was vital that the Bees gave nothing away at Brandon.
Swindon have often proved to be difficult opponents, but on this occasion with close to a full strength team it was Coventry who were dominant virtually from start to finish, with the improved gating being a notable feature of this display.
There were several impressive performances, headed by Ryan Fisher who scored a welcome four-ride paid maximum, the American and Kenni Larsen ensuring that Bees would be able to cope with a rare off-night for Przemyslaw Pawlicki.
With Emil Sayfutdinov growing in confidence at Brandon and using some exciting racing lines, and Edward Kennett solid and fast, the Bees were well-served in their top order, and there was further encouragement at reserve with youngster Nick Morris picking up his best-ever Elite League score.
Meanwhile Coventry were grateful to Tyson Burmeister for accepting a late call to guest after Josh Auty was injured racing for Sheffield on Thursday – and it was easy to see why Wolverhampton have been keen to persevere with the American on a steep Elite League learning curve, as Burmeister was well on the pace and picked up several useful points thanks to a number of smart first bend moves.
Track conditions were damp in the early stages, although a pre-meeting track inspection confirmed that the circuit would be fine for racing as long as there was no more significant rainfall. Although there were a few falls, there were no riders getting into major difficulty so the decision was certainly vindicated, and both sides did well to push the meeting through and ensure all fifteen races were run, although with heavy rain falling during the last race it’s debatable whether there would have been any further action beyond that stage.
Bees made good use of gates 1 and 3 in three of the first four races with a number of fast starts, former skipper Scott Nicholls being left trailing from the outside in Heat 1 before determinedly making his way inside Sayfutdinov on a tricky third bend – but Larsen held a perfect line throughout and prevented the Robins’ No.1 from finding a way through.
Morris once again showed his talent with a dominant show in Heat 2, making the start from gate two and winning by a distance, with Burmeister unfortunate after going third on the back straight, as he went wide on turn three as Taylor Poole made a good passing move, with the recovering Burmeister back up with Kenny Ingalls by the end of the race.
Bees looked set for their first 5-1 of the night in Heat 3 as Fisher and Pawlicki led for most of the way – but a mistake from Pawlicki at the end of lap three saw him go too wide and allow fellow Pole Maciej Janowski through on the inside, and as Pawlicki tried to hit back around the second bend of lap four, he made a further error and Nicolai Klindt snatched third.
Bees did, though, extend their lead in Heat 4 as Kennett got the better of Simon Stead around the first couple of bends, the Swindon riders nearly tangling as Stead locked on turn two, whilst Burmeister held the kerb to move inside Ingalls on the way into the back straight for a Coventry 4-2.
Nicholls again found himself chasing in Heat 5 and could not make any serious impression on the flying Fisher, with the third place for Jesper B Monberg ahead of Pawlicki turning out to be the experienced Dane’s only point of the night.
The signs were that the Bees weren’t too far away from taking control of the meeting, and they took a step towards doing that with a big 5-1 from Larsen and Sayfutdinov in Heat 6, despite an enthusiastic challenge by Poole on the back straight on the Russian. Poole, however, fell later in the race on turn one and remounted to allow the race to continue with Stead inheriting third place.
Finally the Swindon riders gated in Heat 7, Kennett seeming to be squeezed out in between Klindt and Janowski, but again it was an important move by Burmeister who came from the outside right to the inside kerb and squeezed inside Janowski just as Kennett was going around the outside. That left Janowski at the back whilst Klindt and Kennett indicated that the conditions were greatly improved as they both found a fast line out wide with Klindt clocking easily the quickest time of the night.
But the Robins’ night was about to get much worse, starting in Heat 8 in which Larsen made it three wins out of three whilst successive errors by Ingalls and then Monberg allowed Morris the opportunity to pick his way through from fourth to second and put the Bees twelve points up.
Twelve became sixteen with back to back 5-1s completed in Heat 9, Pawlicki getting it right to join Fisher up-front again and stay there this time, as Stead fell on turn three of the second lap whilst in third place. Again, the fallen rider remounted quickly which was good to see, and the Bees were certainly pleased to see the scoreline of 35-19 ahead of tactical rides for the Robins.
Recently-appointed team boss Jan Staechmann had no option but to deploy his only race-winner, Klindt, in black and white in Heat 10 despite facing a tough pairing, but after not making the best of starts Klindt spun on the inside of the first bend and went down, resulting in double-zero on the tactical ride. The re-run looked entirely likely to be another Coventry 5-1 as Sayfutdinov and Larsen raced clear of Janowksi, but Larsen made his one mistake of the night at the end of the third lap and fell, re-mounting quickly to take third place for a 4-2.
Nicholls enjoyed more success when taking his tactical ride in Heat 11, securing what was to be his only win of the night in a fast, fair duel with Kennett who looked fast but couldn’t find a way through – and the visitors were limited to a 6-3 with Monberg convincingly beaten into third place by Morris.
Heat 12 produced plenty of action with Poole in particular in the wars – firstly with Fisher and Burmeister holding a clear 5-1, Janowski moved far too strongly inside his team-mate and brought him down on turn four, to earn himself a disqualification. The re-run again saw Fisher up front but this time Burmeister’s drive inside Poole saw the young Australian come down again on, and it has to be said that Burmeister was more than fortunate to gain an all-three re-start, from which he made no mistakes this time to join Fisher for the 5-1 which they had held in the initial staging.
Rain was beginning to come down again for the final three races, but several of the top riders showed exactly why they are with some terrific battles late in the meeting, with Kennett surging around Nicholls into the third bend of Heat 13 with Stead doing well to get the better of Sayfutdinov for third place.
Klindt led Heat 14 which was heading for a 3-3 until Pawlicki ended a trying night with a fall on the fourth bend when trying too hard, and whilst he was trying to clear the track having landed some way from his bike, the race had to be stopped and was awarded as a 4-2, which allowed just enough time to run Heat 15 as the conditions worsened.
That turned out to be an excellent decision because the final race produced some fine action with Sayfutdinov determined to make amends for Heat 13, but initially it was Nicholls who starred as he blasted between the Russian and Larsen on the back straight. Sayfutdinov, though, wasn’t taking that and he kept on the outside taking plenty of speed and an unusual line into the bend, especially given the rain, and it took him spectacularly into the lead. With the rain seeming to intensify during the race, it was a case of survival for the remaining laps, and the Bees finished with a 4-2 with Larsen ahead of Klindt.
A super showing from Coventry, arguably their best of the season notwithstanding the 58-34 win over Lakeside in May, and it comes at a very good time indeed with the Poole showdown on the way on Monday!