COVENTRY suffered their heaviest defeat of the Elite League season as they went down 54-35 to King’s Lynn on a controversial night at the Adrian Flux Arena.
It was a scoreline which hardly reflected the meeting as the Buildbase Bees were strongly in contention to take at least a point prior to the inexplicable disqualification of both of their reserves in an extraordinary Heat 12.
And they also have injury concerns as the most crucial stage of the season approaches with Stuart Robson ruled out, Danny King withdrawing mid-meeting and Jason Garrity riding through the pain barrier.
Skipper Chris Harris was also fortunate to avoid joining the casualty list when he fell spectacularly in Heat 6, at a time when the scores were level.
Bees also found themselves facing a Stars team who were strengthened on the night by their top-five alterations, as Freddie Lindgren scored 12 (paid 13) as a replacement for Vaclav Milik, whilst Robert Lambert’s outings were amply covered by the rider-replacement facility - as No.1 Niels-Kristian Iversen raced to an 18-point maximum.
Bees conceded a 5-1 in Heat 1 but hit straight back through Garrity and James Sarjeant in the next, with Sarjeant making his way past Stars guest Adam Ellis for second place.
A series of shared races followed until Harris’s fall in Heat 6 when Bees held a 4-2, and the re-start predictably went the Stars’ way as Iversen and Kenneth Bjerre got the better of Joonas Kylmakorpi.
Bees briefly dropped six points down but hit back in Heat 9 with a 4-2 as Sarjeant took a fine win, although Hans Andersen lost second place to Nicklas Porsing when attempting to team-ride.
Harris overhauled Lindgren to win Heat 10 but the Stars moved six points ahead before the controversy of Heat 12, the second reserves’ race.
Sarjeant, off gate 2, broke the tapes and was sent back off the 15-metre handicap. The re-run then saw Garrity and Morris clash going into the second bend with Garrity, who had made the move inside from gate 2 disqualified by the referee - who then remarkably also disqualified Sarjeant for movement at the start.
Not only did TV replays confirm that Sarjeant had remained still until the tapes went up, the red lights did not go on until the Garrity/Morris clash, whereas had it actually been an unsatisfactory start (leading to the disqualification of Sarjeant), the race should already have been stopped prior to the subsequent incident.
The decision handed the home side a 5-0 on a plate, and with the power of Iversen and Lindgren dominating the closing stages the Stars raced to three heat advantages to extend their lead to an unreflective 19-points.
Coventry manager Gary Havelock said: “There were at least four or five massive things there that changed the meeting, and I’m disappointed because I think we could have run them really close if not even beaten them.
“If James has cheated at the back (in Heat 12) then the red lights should have gone on and that crash wouldn’t have counted.
“The referee said he’d looked at the replay from the side and he’d definitely moved, but you can’t tell from the side - the one from the back shows it as clear as day, and he said he’d have a look at that after the meeting!
“But we’ve got to re-group now, and the injury situation is not good. I’ve talked all season about how important it is to stay injury-free, but we seem to be gathering them now at the most crucial point. It’s unfortunate that we’re in this position, but we’ll go away and look at things ahead of Friday.”
Bees now face a big Brandon battle with in-form Swindon on Friday (team news to follow on Thursday) prior to a week off ahead of a hectic schedule at the end of the regular campaign.
KING’S LYNN 54: Niels-Kristian Iversen 18, Freddie Lindgren 12+1, Kenneth Bjerre 9+2, Adam Ellis 7, Nicklas Porsing 5+1, Ashley Morris 3+2, Robert Lambert R/R. COVENTRY 35: Hans Andersen 10, Chris Harris 7, Jason Garrity 5+2, James Sarjeant 5+1, Matej Kus 4, Joonas Kylmakorpi 3, Danny King 1+1.