COVENTRY Storm suffered a second home defeat of their National League season as they went down 42-50 to the Isle of Wight in an eventful clash at Brandon.
The result continued an up-and-down run for the Storm, whose three away wins still leave them well-placed in the table but they could now be under pressure to take another win on the road at strengthened Kent next month.
In the final analysis, the absence of Joe Jacobs due to Premier League commitments proved costly, with the rider-replacement facility netting just seven points, probably some way short of Jacobs’ likely contribution.
High scores from two of the Islanders were always expected with brilliant teenager Adam Ellis lowering his own National League track record on his way to paid-16, whilst guest No.1 Charles Wright dropped just one point from five rides – but it was the middle-order display of Darryl Ritchings which swung the meeting the visitors’ way.
Ritchings won three races out of four between Heats 7 and 10 and that prevented the Storm making a serious comeback from a troubled start until it was almost too late.
The Islanders were six points in front after the first two races, both of which were won by Ellis, and the Storm could make no ground back with three shared heats following even though Oliver Greenwood and skipper James Sarjeant both took wins.
There was drama in Heat 6 when Luke Crang fell on a tight turn two, and then a frantic battle for second place between Robert Branford and Dan Greenwood ended with the Islanders’ guest crashing on the third lap, fortunately without injury.
Ritchings used the outside to good effect to win Heats 7 and 8 before Ellis clocked a hugely impressive 61.8 in Heat 9, especially as he had been wheel-to-wheel with Sarjeant for most of the first lap before moving clear on the fourth bend.
Storm trailed 24-35 ahead of Heat 11 and although they had to play a tactical ride, it looked a long shot to get anything out of it – but they had a stroke of fortune as leader Ellis suffered a chain breakage on turn four and Sarjeant, who was already in front of Wright to inflict his first defeat in 26 races at this level, took full advantage to bank the six points.
Oliver Greenwood, who made intelligent racing moves all night, superbly won Heat 12 by re-passing Ben Hopwood with Ellis content with third place having had to change machinery, leaving the home side still with an outside chance.
Bu the Storm’s night was summed up in Heat 13 when Dan Greenwood was an unexpected winner, riding a superb race to hold Branford at bay – and then the Coventry rider punctured in the latter stages to allow Wright to steal second place.
That virtually ensured maximum points for the Islanders although they had to wait until the final race as Ritchings fell in Heat 14 – but Wright collected the result they needed at the end as he held Sarjeant and Oliver Greenwood at bay.
Coventry co-boss Blayne Scroggins said: “We knew Adam Ellis and Charles Wright were going to score a hatful, so we had to pick up the points elsewhere, but it didn’t happen because nobody was expecting Darryl Ritchings to get three wins, and fair play to him.
“We didn’t get anything out of the heats we thought we would, so that’s disappointing. We didn’t want to lose at home but we’ve still got to be positive, as there are points there to be won.
“Oliver rode very well, and I thought James Sarjeant looked good and is also a good team captain, but it’s unfortunate we didn’t have Joe – but when you have Premier League riders that’s what happens, and now we’ve got to regroup.”
COVENTRY 42: James Sarjeant 15, Oliver Greenwood 12+3, Robert Branford 7, James Shanes 6, Luke Crang 2+1, Ryan Terry-Daley 0, Joe Jacobs r/r.
ISLE OF WIGHT 50: Adam Ellis 15+1, Charles Wright 12+2, Darryl Ritchings 10+1, Ben Hopwood 6, Dan Greenwood 5, Chris Widman 2+1, Danny Stoneman r/r.
COVENTRY 42 Robert Branford 0 2 2 2 1 = 7 Luke Crang 1 F 1* 0 = 2+1 Joe Jacobs Rider Replacement Oliver Greenwood 3 1* 1* 3 3 1* = 12+3 James Sarjeant 3 2 2 6^ 0 2 = 15 James Shanes 2 0 0 2 1 1 = 6 Ryan Terry-Daley 0 0 0 = 0
ISLE OF WIGHT 50 Charles Wright 2* 3 2 2* 3 = 12+2 Danny Stoneman Rider Replacement Ben Hopwood 2 1 1 2 = 6 Darryl Ritchings 1* 3 3 3 X 0 = 10+1 Dan Greenwood 2 X 0 3 = 5 Adam Ellis 3 3 3 3 R 1* 2 = 15+1 Chris Widman 1 1* 0 0 = 2+1