COVENTRY Storm lost their unbeaten home National League record with a 42-47 defeat to Mildenhall in an entertaining meeting at Brandon which ended in high drama.
The City Gearboxes Storm required a 5-1 from the final race to salvage a draw, and facing the unbeaten Joe Jacobs such a result looked highly unlikely.
But the home duo of James Sarjeant and Stefan Nielsen hit the front and for nearly two laps it appeared they could rescue a point – until disaster struck on the third and fourth bends, when Nielsen and Jacobs collided. Nielsen was deemed the cause of the incident as he had locked up somewhat, and with the other Fen Tigers rider Josh Bates also falling at the back it left three riders down on the track with Bates also being disqualified for not being under power at the time of the stoppage.
That effectively resolved all of the issues from the meeting and in the re-start Coventry asset Jacobs completed a highly impressive 15-point maximum with a win over Sarjeant, whose second place limited to Mildenhall to three points from the meeting – cancelling out the Storm’s win at West Row last month.
It had been a close and eventful contest throughout with plenty of good races, although the Fen Tigers dominated the early heat wins and had cause to rue a fall for Connor Coles in the opener to prevent them from taking the lead.
The first five heats were all shared, with Nielsen the Storm’s only race winner and with Coles disqualified from Heat 5 when Dan Greenwood came to grief in a third-bend incident not dissimilar to the one which would eventually decide the meeting.
A broken seat bracket cost Oliver Greenwood a point in Heat 6 as the Fen Tigers made the breakthrough, but the Storm levelled immediately with a fine inside pass by Nielsen on Dan Halsey on the second lap of Heat 7.
The match then resumed its run of shared races but Heat 10 was costly for the Storm with their strongest pairing on track, as Nielsen suffered mechanical trouble at the start meaning Sarjeant could only confirm a 3-3 with his race victory.
Nielsen then lost power during Heat 11, turning a Mildenhall 4-2 into a 5-1 and giving the visitors a four point lead – and then when the Storm held a 4-2 in Heat 12, Martin Knuckey fell on turn three. The re-run saw a terrific battle between Oliver Greenwood and Halsey, with the Storm rider finally prevailing after the pair exchanged positions on three occasions.
Jacobs controlled a shared Heat 13 with Bates, who had earlier clocked the fastest National League time of the season at Brandon, kept at the back, whilst the Fen Tigers reserves were content to defend a 3-3 in Heat 14 as Dan Greenwood raced clear.
It meant Heat 15 was 5-1 or nothing for the Storm but on this occasion, unlike the recent win over Cradley, there was to be no fairytale ending – although there was enough evidence from the meeting to suggest that the two sides may well do battle again in the later stages of competitions this season.
Storm co-boss Blayne Scroggins said: “It’s obviously a disappointing result but the teams were very even and that’s just the way it goes with a decision at the end that could have gone either way.
“These two teams are both going to be fighting for honours and really you can’t give points away. We missed Luke (Crang) because rider replacement only scored four and I’m sure he would have scored more, but we just have to keep our heads up.
“We don’t like losing to one of our rivals for top spot but it’s a long season. Fair play to them, and Joe rode really well as he did all of last year for us – he does go well here and you have to take your hat off to him.”
CITY GEARBOXES STORM 42: James Sarjeant 11, Dan Greenwood 9+3, Oliver Greenwood 9, Stefan Nielsen 7+1, Ryan Terry-Daley 4+2, Martin Knuckey 2, Luke Crang r/r. MILDENHALL 47: Joe Jacobs 15, Dan Halsey 9, Josh Bates 7+1, Brendan Johnson 7+1, Jack Kingston 5+1, Connor Coles 3+2, Connor Mountain 1+1.
CITY GEARBOXES STORM 42: James Sarjeant 2 2 3 2 2 = 11 Luke Crang Rider Replacement Oliver Greenwood 2 2 0 2 3 = 9 Dan Greenwood 1* 1* 3 1* 3 = 9+3 Stefan Nielsen 3 3 R R 1* X = 7+1 Ryan Terry-Daley 1 1* 1 1 0 = 4+1 Martin Knuckey 2 0 0 X = 2
MILDENHALL 47 Joe Jacobs 3 3 3 3 3 = 15 Connor Coles 0 X 1* 2* = 3+2 Dan Halsey 3 2 2 2 = 9 Connor Mountain 0 0 1* = 1+1 Josh Bates 1* 3 3 0 X = 7+1 Brendan Johnson 3 1 0 1* 2 = 7+1 Jack Kingston 0 2 2 1* = 5+1