COVENTRY took another stride towards the Elite League play-off places with an impressive 52-39 win over Belle Vue at Brandon.
The Buildbase Bees now have a three-week break due to the World Cup, and they are currently level on points with fourth-placed Eastbourne, who themselves grabbed an away point at Lakeside.
It was a banana-skin fixture for the Bees as they have often dropped points when without star reserve Jason Garrity, but on this occasion their top five all stepped up to the plate to nullify the considerable threat posed by the Aces spearhead of Matej Zagar and Scott Nicholls – who were limited to just 18 points from 11 rides combined, and only three race wins.
The result also severely weakens the Aces’ chances of making a late surge towards the top four, with just three away points gained all season and only one more match on the road to come.
After a shared opener, both sides had a let-off in Heat 2 – the Aces when Stefan Nielsen crashed on turn two at a stage when the race had already been stopped; and the Bees when Lee Payne came to grief on turn four when the visitors had gated on a 5-1.
Bees took full advantage with maximum points in Heat 3 as Chris Harris sliced past Nicholls on the back straight to team up with Michael Jepsen Jensen, and Nicholls was again on the receiving end in Heat 5, this time at the hands of Harris and Hans Andersen.
Jepsen Jensen showed his talent with a fine win over Zagar in Heat 6 with the pressure on after Kenneth Hansen had fallen on the first bend, and a Bees 4-2 in Heat 7 headed up by Aaron Summers put the visitors into tactical territory.
But their move to nominate Nicholls for double points in Heat 8 went badly wrong as Jepsen Jensen made another terrific start and then waited for Hansen to join him around the outside, leaving Nicholls mired in third place and not doubling his score.
Bees looked set to extend the lead to 18 points in Heat 9 only for the unlucky James Sarjeant to fall due to machine failure on the third lap, with guest Tom Perry taking a good win.
The second Belle Vue tactical ride was only marginally more successful as, after a super effort by Nicholls to go between Andersen and Summers down the back straight, the double-points Zagar was left at the back for three laps before snatching third place from Summers late in the race.
Zagar then clocked the fastest time of the season in winning Heat 11 and a fightback looked on the cards in the next when the Aces got the better of a ragged start before Summers overhauled Nielsen going into the last lap to prevent a 5-1.
Belle Vue’s night was summed up by the events of Heat 13, which was pulled back for an unsatisfactory start – but only after Zagar’s machine had expired in a shower of sparks, meaning the Slovenian was disqualified for not being under power at the time of the stoppage. Andersen and Harris then secured maximum gains in the re-run by sandwiching Nicholls on turn one and racing away for another 5-1.
The ever-trying Michael Palm Toft got the verdict in the closest of finishes with Hansen in Heat 14 after a late inside move, but all Bees needed to do in the last race was provide a finisher to ensure all three league points.
They did more than that as Andersen fended off a strong Nicholls challenge to win the race, Nicholls having gone around Jepsen Jensen off the fourth bend to split the Bees pairing.
Manager Gary Havelock said: “That was our best performance around here this season without a shadow of a doubt. We wanted to go hard right from the start, and after a couple of 3-3s we really kicked in with a lot of 5-1s.
“We controlled the meeting all the way through, we 5-1’d their first double and their second one only got a 5-2, so really all round it was a perfect team performance.
“It could have been a bit ‘iffy’ for us without Jason because he’s been doing fantastically well, but the top five did the job that they’re paid to do and I’m really happy. At no time during the meeting were the nerves coming – it was pretty smooth all the way through.”
BUILDBASE BEES 52: Hans Andersen 12+1, Michael Jepsen Jensen 11+1, Kenneth Hansen 8, Chris Harris 7+4, Aaron Summers 7, Tom Perry 4+1, James Sarjeant 3. BELLE VUE 39: Matej Zagar 10, Stefan Nielsen 9, Scott Nicholls 8, Michael Palm Toft 6, Richie Worrall 5+2, Lee Payne 1+1, Craig Cook r/r.
BUILDBASE BEES 52 Hans Andersen 1* 3 2 3 3 = 12+1 Aaron Summers 2 3 0 2 = 7 Michael Jepsen Jensen 3 3 2* 2 1 = 11+1 Kenneth Hansen 3 X 3 2 = 8 Chris Harris 2* 2* 1* 2* = 7+4 Tom Perry 1* 0 3 0 = 4+1 James Sarjeant 2 1 X 0 = 3
BELLE VUE 39 Matej Zagar 3 2 2^ 3 X = 10 Richie Worrall R 1* 1* 0 3 = 5+2 Scott Nicholls 0 1 1^ 3 1 2 = 8 Michael Palm Toft 1 0 2 0 3 0 = 6 Craig Cook Rider Replacement Lee Payne 0 0 1* = 1+1 Stefan Nielsen 3 2 2 1 1 = 9