COVENTRY will take an eight-point lead to Swindon for the second leg of their Elite League play-off semi-final after a 49-41 win at Brandon on Monday.
The Buildbase Bees worked hard to establish an advantage as they met with dogged resistance from the Robins in a thoroughly entertaining clash which leaves the tie well poised for next week.
Eleven of the fourteen riders on show won at least one race as fortunes ebbed and flowed throughout the evening, but a Heat 14 5-1 from Kenneth Hansen and Jason Garrity eventually secured the final margin for the Bees.
There were also several incidents, starting in Heat 2 when Nathan Greaves spun on the third bend and could be very thankful for the action of James Sarjeant in laying his machine down to avoid a more serious accident.
Bees made the first big move with a 5-1 in Heat 4 as Hansen rounded Nick Morris to join Jason Garrity up-front, but the visitors hit back as Simon Gustafsson beat the home top two in Heat 5 and then Peter Kildemand and Troy Batchelor carded a maximum in the next.
Garrity found himself the victim of a series of tough first bends which restricted his scoring mid-meeting, and a 4-2 to Swindon in Heat 8 levelled the scores at 24-24.
The Robins looked in good shape in Heat 9 with Garrity out of contention and eventually falling, but Sarjeant produced a brilliant ride to get the better of first Steve Worrall and then Greaves to protect a 3-3.
And Bees built on that with two excellent 5-1s as both Batchelor and Kildemand were left trailing, first by Hans Andersen and Kyle Howarth after a tough first lap in Heat 11, and then by Aaron Summers and Chris Harris who squeezed out Kildemand on the first bend of the next.
Swindon, though, responded with 4-2s in the next two heats to narrow the gap to four before Worrall was disqualified from Heat 14 for bringing down team-mate Dakota North – and in the re-run Hansen and Garrity both surged around the Australian to re-build the eight-point advantage.
The final heat was shared as Harris flew from gate two and blocked the run of Batchelor, leaving it all to ride for at Swindon next week.
Bees boss Gary Havelock said: “If you’d offered me that before the meeting I would probably have taken it, although it’s disappointing that every little incident seemed to go against us.
“But that’s the way it goes, Swindon have been installed as favourites to win the league and on any other day we could have possibly gone away with a 12-14 point lead there.
“The tie is wide open. All of our boys showed plenty of character – we talked on the track walk about having no regrets and not leaving anything in the pits, and there was plenty of effort out there.”
COVENTRY 49: Chris Harris 11+2, Jason Garrity 9+2, Kenneth Hansen 8+1, Kyle Howarth 7, James Sarjeant 6, Hans Andersen 5+2, Aaron Summers 3. SWINDON 41: Troy Bachelor 10+1, Peter Kildemand 9+1, Simon Gustafsson 7+1, Nick Morris 5, Steve Worrall 4+1, Dakota North 4, Nathan Greaves 2.