COVENTRY Storm halted the Cradley steamroller with a dramatic 46-43 win in a National League thriller at Brandon on Easter Monday.
Both sides deserve great credit for serving up an entertaining spectacle in a Bank Holiday clash which has plenty of tradition at senior level, and Oliver Greenwood emerged as the City Gearboxes Storm hero in a last-heat decider.
Such an outcome looked unlikely when Cradley dominated the early stages of the meeting, fast-gating taking the visitors to a series of heat advantages as they opened up a 22-14 lead.
The Storm saw Luke Crang disqualified in Heat 1 after a strong inside challenge from Nathan Greaves, at a time when team-mate Stefan Nielsen was ahead, and the visitors took a 5-1 in the re-run.
Further Cradley advantages followed although there was a terrific Heat 3 for the Storm when Greenwood and namesake Dan turned a 1-5 into a 5-1 by both passing Tom Perry and Max Clegg, whilst Dan Greenwood had to take swift evasive action to lay down his machine in Heat 5 when Greaves dropped a chain in front of him.
Skipper James Sarjeant held off Perry to win Heat 7 but Heathens reserve Danny Phillips grabbed his second win of the meeting in the next race when leader Crang went wide on turn four, meaning Cradley remained six points up.
But the home side hit back with a stunning ride by Oliver Greenwood to scrape the boards and pass Steve Worrall in Heat 9, and they levelled the scores in the next race with a 5-1 from Crang and Stefan Nielsen as Perry came to grief.
Paul Starke, though, was in top form for Cradley and expertly cut inside Sarjeant to win Heat 11 for a 4-2, and they doubled the lead to four points in a terrific Heat 13 when Starke came from third to first around the outside and Worrall snatched third place from Sarjeant on the line.
But the match turned in an eventful Heat 14, in which the Heathens looked set to confirm victory as the impressive Phillips led – but he fell on turn three under pressure from Dan Greenwood, and was unavoidably hit by Clegg who went into the fence.
With both Heathens thankfully able to walk away and Phillips disqualified, the re-run was stopped again when Clegg’s front wheel caught the rear wheel of Ryan Terry-Daley going into turn one after the Storm duo had gated well, and the referee’s verdict was for all three to return.
At the next attempt, Terry-Daley and Clegg traded elbows halfway to the first bend and then as Terry-Daley moved in front Clegg came down again – and this time the referee delayed stopping the race. When Clegg did not remount or clear the track, he disqualified the Cradley rider enabling Terry-Daley and Dan Greenwood to collect a 5-0.
That put the Storm 42-41 ahead but facing the unbeaten Starke and rapid Worrall in Heat 15 – but Oliver Greenwood made a fantastic start to lead with Nielsen supplying further insurance with third place, the task becoming easier when Worrall slipped off on the second lap.
Storm co-boss Blayne Scroggins said: “It’s been a fantastic weekend, we’ve taken points off the two favourites in the league and to battle back from eight points down was brilliant.
“Olly is coming on in leaps and bounds, both in the National and Premier Leagues, and that was a great Heat 15. Paul Starke had looked awesome all night but Olly made the gate, kept his head down and went. That’s two meetings in a row that he’s deserved Heat 15.
“We’ve got to kick on now – it keeps our position at the top of the league and in 24 hours we’ve beaten the two teams who we couldn’t beat last year so we’re proud of the boys and it’s been a great weekend for Coventry.”
CITY GEARBOXES STORM 46: Oliver Greenwood 14, Stefan Nielsen 8+1, Ryan Terry-Daley 8, Dan Greenwood 6+3, James Sarjeant 6, Luke Crang 4+1, Martin Knuckey 0. CRADLEY 43: Paul Starke 14, Steve Worrall 8+1, Danny Phillips 7, Matt Williamson 5+1, Tom Perry 5, Nathan Greaves 3+1, Max Clegg 1.
CITY GEARBOXES STORM 46 Stefan Nielsen 1 2 2* 2 1 = 8+1 Luke Crang X 0 1* 3 = 4+1 Oliver Greenwood 3 2 3 3 3 = 14 Dan Greenwood 2* 1* 1 2* = 6+3 James Sarjeant 1 3 2 0 = 6 Ryan Terry-Daley 2 1 2 0 3 = 8 Martin Knuckey 0 0 0 = 0
CRADLEY 43 Paul Starke 3 3 3 3 2 = 14 Nathan Greaves 2* X R 1 = 3+1 Tom Perry 1 2 F 2 = 5 Max Clegg 0 0 1 X = 1 Steve Worrall 2* 3 2 1 0 = 8+1 Matt Williamson 3 1 0 1* = 5+1 Danny Phillips 1 3 3 X = 7