COVENTRY edged out Swindon 47-43 in an Elite League thriller at Brandon - and they have also now officially confirmed a place in the play-offs.
As things transpired, a top four finish would have been safe anyway due to King’s Lynn’s defeats this week - it will now be either the Stars or Belle Vue who take the final spot - but the Buildbase Bees took care of their own business with a gritty, backs-to-the-wall performance in less than ideal conditions, and finished the meeting with a brilliant 5-1.
The meeting only got the official go-ahead around half an hour before the scheduled start after heavy rain at teatime, and the start time was put back until 8pm.
But the riders from both teams got stuck in to provide an incident-filled encounter, ending up with Danny King and guest Max Fricke proving to be the Bees’ heroes in a last-heat decider.
Referee Graham Flint was kept busy with a succession of decisions to make and the scoreline swung in both sides’ favour throughout the meeting.
Bees initially led by two points thanks to their first Heat 1 race advantage since way back on April 24, visiting captain Troy Batchelor being relegated to the back after falling on the first bend in the initial start.
But after two shared races, the Robins levelled matters in a controversial Heat 4 when Peter Kildemand was not penalised for movement at the start - but Hans Andersen was when his chain was brought off after a coming-together with Lewis Rose on the back straight.
Swindon edged in front in Heat 5 with Kyle Howarth doing well to split Aaron Summers and Charles Wright after the Robins made fast starts, and Fricke again proved to be a fine choice of guest with a win in Heat 7, which took four attempts to run after repeated movement at the start from Morris and then a turn one tumble for the Swindon man.
A 4-2 to Bees there levelled the scores, and two 5-1s followed as the home side took charge with Sarjeant winning Heat 9 - having initially been called back after making too fast a start - ahead of Andersen, whilst in Heat 10 Bees had to do their job twice after a superb first bend from Jason Garrity to move Kildemand aside, only for the Dane to fall on the second lap and clearly remain on-track to prevent the race from continuing.
Justice was done with a Coventry 5-1 in the re-run, despite a good effort from Lewis Rose against Howarth, and the Robins certainly weren’t finished as they hit back with back-to-back 5-1s of their own, Chris Harris almost coming to grief as he tried to pass Nick Morris in Heat 11.
When the Bees reserves, who appeared to have the favourable gates, conceded a 4-2 to the impressive Rose with Wright third, they trailed 35-37 and the visitors were favourites to win the meeting.
Swindon dodged a bullet in Heat 13 when Batchelor crashed out on the first bend only for team-mate Grzegorz Zengota to defy Fricke and Harris in the re-run - but Bees again levelled a see-saw encounter as King made it from the outside in Heat 14 ahead of Kildemand with Andersen barging past Morris on the third lap for a vital third place.
The scores were therefore level with one race to go, and with King fired up from his Heat 14 win he again made the outside work in the decider, and the impressive Fricke hit the start with him - and from there, they saw off Zengota and Kildemand for a crowd-pleasing and match-winning 5-1.
Coventry promoter Mick Horton said: “Fair play to everyone - Coventry riders, Swindon riders, the referee and Sky Sports - for giving the meeting a shot, and a big thanks to the fans as well after it was so late in the day that it was confirmed we were on.
“What a meeting - when we went eight up I thought we had them by the scruff of the neck, but when they pulled it back to lead by two I really couldn’t see us winning it.
“I knew we’d have gates 2 and 4 in Heat 15 and I thought the only way we’d pull it off would be if they missed the gate or if Danny made a flier from the outside, and it happened!
“It was a magnificent performance, and Max was absolutely superb coming in as guest.
“We’re in the play-offs now, that’s guaranteed, and if we win our last two home meetings that may well mean we finish runners-up at minimum. We can beat anybody, and I think the four teams who make the play-offs will all be capable of winning them.”
The Bees promoter also confirmed that Joonas Kylmakorpi is unfortunately set to be ruled out for the remainder of the season with his back injury. Bees have already made several enquiries with regards to a possible replacement.
COVENTRY 47: Max Fricke 10+1, Danny King 8+1, Jason Garrity 8, Chris Harris 6+1, Kyle Howarth 5+1, Hans Andersen 5+1, James Sarjeant 5. SWINDON 43: Aaron Summers 8, Peter Kildemand 8, Grzegorz Zengota 8, Lewis Rose 6+1, Troy Batchelor 5+1, Charles Wright 5, Nick Morris 3+2.