A PATCHED-UP Coventry side came within a whisker of snatching at least a deserved Elite League point at Perry Barr on Thursday.
With no Chris Harris, Scott Nicholls or Adam Roynon, and no top-flight rider available to substitute for Harris, the Buildbase Bees were expected to fall to a heavy defeat against the play-off chasing Brummies.
But a terrific effort ensued from the riders on the night, with the four regular Coventry men all putting in excellent displays.
Harris’s stand-in, Christian Henry, unfortunately ended the night injured after suffering knee ligament damage in a jarring Heat 11 collision with Sebastian Ulamek which left the Pole with a knock to the head, and also brought Aaron Summers down in the process.
It had been Summers who got the Bees off to a flying start by defeating Bjarne Pedersen in Heat 1, and in fact a steady stream of Coventry race wins followed – the only problem being that the Danny King/Ben Barker combination twice netted 5-1s for the Brummies in the first five races.
But Bees battled back from an early six-point deficit with a 5-1 from Edward Kennett and Kenni Larsen in Heat 7, the duo taking advantage when Ulamek went wide, and that followed up a super ride from Summers in Heat 4 to pass both Ulamek and Martin Smolinski and team up with lively reserve Michal Szczepaniak, who won his first two races.
An unfortunate incident in Heat 10 saw Kennett disqualified, as he locked up on turn two when in a clear lead, forcing the following Pedersen to take avoiding action and giving Josh Auty no option but to put his bike down.
The re-run saw the Brummies go four points up, but Bees battled on and consecutive wins for Kennett in Heats 12 and 13, backed up by a third for guest Rohan Tungate, saw them reduce the gap to two points.
A firm move by Barker in Heat 14 sent him inside Larsen on turn three as the Brummies edged another couple of points clear, leaving Bees needing a 5-1 from the last race to draw.
But in the event it was the home side who took the 5-1 through Barker and Pedersen, with Larsen just edged out going into lap two, and that race result left Bees just short of the mark required for what would have been a very worthy point.
Bees boss Blayne Scroggins said: “From Tuesday morning until midday today I’ve been on the phone non-stop to riders. We spoke to four Peterborough riders, three from King’s Lynn, Swindon, and they said no, and it looked like we could get Jason Doyle and he went into the Swindon meeting too (Simon Stead’s Testimonial) when Troy Batchelor went to the Czech Republic.
“At 11.45 Christian Henry said he would do it and dropped everything to come. I know it wasn’t ideal and it’s upset people but I can promise the supporters we have tried everything. We’d like to thank Christian and also Newcastle and we hope he’s okay after his crash.
“We spoke to Premier League riders who were asking ridiculous money, and people may criticise that we didn’t spend it, but if Premier League riders are asking for Chris Harris’s wages then I’m not going to do it.
“I’m ever the optimist, but even I feared the worst tonight. But we got together and it was one of those meetings where they went out and enjoyed it, there was no pressure on us and it was an outstanding performance.
“Everybody dug deep and I’m pleased for Eddie. He’s relieved tonight too, but all-round every one of them have to be proud.”
BIRMINGHAM 49: Ben Barker 12+2, Bjarne Pedersen 12+1, Danny King 9+1, Martin Smolinski 7+3, Josh Auty 5+1, Nicolas Covatti 2, Sebastian Ulamek 2.
BUILDBASE BEES 41: Kenni Larsen 11+1, Aaron Summers 10+2, Michal Szczepaniak 10, Edward Kennett 9, Rohan Tungate 1, Christian Henry 0, Scott Nicholls r/r.
BIRMINGHAM 49 Bjarne Pedersen 2 3 3 2 2* = 12+1 Josh Auty 1* 1 2 1 = 5+1 Danny King 3 2* 2 2 = 9+1 Ben Barker 2* 3 1* 3 3 = 12+2 Sebastian Ulamek 1 1 N = 2 Nicolas Covatti 2 0 0 = 2 Martin Smolinski 1* 0 1* 3 0 1* 1 = 7+3
BUILDBASE BEES 41 Christian Henry 0 0 N = 0 Aaron Summers 3 2* 1 3 1* = 10+2 Edward Kennett 0 3 X 3 3 0 = 9 Kenni Larsen 1 2* 3 2 2 1 = 11+1 Scott Nicholls Rider Replacement Rohan Tungate 0 0 0 1 = 1 Michal Szczepaniak 3 3 2 0 2 0 0 = 10