COVENTRY are now huge outsiders in the race for the 2012 Knockout Cup – after a most disappointing first leg at Brandon left them 14-points adrift of Poole.
The Buildbase Bees head to Wimborne Road for the return on Monday seeking the big shock result of the season having had an almost collective off-night on the worst possible occasion to do so.
Bees have generally been strong on their home circuit since mid-season but that was not in evidence on this occasion as the Pirates dominated the race wins, collecting eleven of the regular fifteen, plus two more in the ‘man on man’ match races.
Bees got off to a bad start with No.1 Chris Harris suffering clutch trouble in Heat 1 – the start of a disastrous night for the Coventry captain – although they did have some initial hope when Kenni Larsen and Scott Nicholls relegated Krzysztof Kasprzak to third place in Heat 3 to level the scores.
But it was already clear that the absence of star Aussie duo Darcy Ward and Chris Holder was not going to seriously affect the visitors with guests Niels-Kristian Iversen and Rory Schlein both making fast starts throughout the meeting.
With Iversen racing in odd-numbered heats throughout, he was able to consistently start on gate one, as in the Knockout Cup this season the positions are not pre-programmed to force every rider to go off each gate during the meeting.
Having said that, Iversen still made the start from the outside in his match-race against Nicholls, which was one of the best races of the night as the Bees man gave chase, and also in Heat 15 when he completed a faultless full maximum.
Bees slid adrift in the middle stages of the meeting when Kenni Larsen fell on the first bend of Heat 5 and Harris and Aaron Summers then conceded maximum points to Schlein and Sam Masters in Heat 6. Masters gave Poole the reserve strength they crucially lacked during their play-off campaign, whilst Ludvig Lindgren proved a most able deputy for out-of-form Ricky Kling, who was absent due to flu.
Summers was much stronger during the second half of the meeting and after a second place in Heat 8 he lowered the colours of Brandon specialist Kasprzak two races later – but Harris was at the back.
Poole scored three 4-2s in the last five heats to gradually extend their lead, although the race of the night came from a super effort by Bees’ Polish reserve Michal Szczepaniak in Heat 14.
They looked to be facing a 5-1 reverse but Szczepaniak first bravely went around Linus Eklof and then switched to the inside to get the better of Masters for a popular win.
It was some consolation on a trying night, but in all likelihood nowhere near enough for Bees – for whom the trip to Poole will be their last match of the season as their Elite League match at Belle Vue will not be re-staged.
Nicholls said: “It was terrible, and I really can’t explain it. This was our chance to restore some pride and redeem ourselves, and for whatever reason it just totally fell apart.
“I struggled and I didn’t win a race, I did have one paid win, and in fairness they had some good guests, but the result was woeful.
“The track hasn’t been the way we’d like it, but it’s not an easy job and we can all bitch and moan about the track. I’m a believer that although yes, you should have a track as close to how you would like it as the home team, it is the same for everyone, so I’m not going to look for excuses – we just haven’t delivered the results.”
BUILDBASE BEES 38: Scott Nicholls 10+1, Michal Szczepaniak 7, Aaron Summers 6, Edward Kennett 5+2, Kenni Larsen 4+1, Richard Hall 3+1, Chris Harris 3.
POOLE 52: Niels-Kristian Iversen 15, Rory Schlein 11, Krzysztof Kasprzak 9+2, Sam Masters 9+1, Ludvig Lindgren 7+1, Linus Eklof 1, Piotr Pawlicki r/r.
BUILDBASE BEES 38 Chris Harris R 1 0 2 0 = 3 Aaron Summers 1 0 2 3 = 6 Edward Kennett 1* 3 (0) 1* 0 = 5+2 Kenni Larsen 3 R 1 0 = 4+1 Scott Nicholls 2* 2 2 2 2 = 10+1 Richard Hall 1* 2 0 0 = 3+1 Michal Szczepaniak 2 0 2 3 = 7