A COMFORTABLE win for the Buildbase Bees on the opening night of the season with their Premier League hosts putting in plenty of effort and some entertaining racing taking place as a result.
Sheffield will obviously be a force to be reckoned with again this season, particularly on their home circuit, and kept Coventry in check for much of the first half of the meeting before the Bees pulled clear.
Simon Stead top-scored on his debut whilst both Stanislaw Burza and Olly Allen shared in three 5-1s - and Billy Janniro once again relished racing on the Owlerton circuit and was involved in plenty of good action.
Bees made the ideal start when home skipper Andre Compton completely missed the start in Heat 1 allowing Rory Schlein to move clear, whilst a battling Joel Parsons held Janniro at bay for much of the race before the American found plenty of drive to come around the outside on the last bend.
There was more last-lap action in Heat 2 as Burza moved into third place past Sam Martin after making a sluggish start, but well ahead was Andreas Messing who took control of the race from the inside gate.
Sheffield, however, hit back straight away and the home fans were in fine voice when Chris Harris was outgated in Heat 3, and when second-placed Allen drifted wide on the fourth bend Ricky Ashworth moved into second place. Harris gave chase but could not make a meaningful challenge and the Tigers were able to celebrate a 5-1.
But the Coventry response was swift with Stead winning his first race for the club in Heat 4 and Burza holding off the challenge of Paul Cooper to extend the lead back to six points.
Sheffield came back again with consecutive 4-2s, and Heat 5 was a fine race with Janniro trying all the way to pass Wilson and almost finding a way through at the start of the last lap. Wilson held him at bay, and Ashworth almost came through too with Schlein having to watch the action from the back on this occasion.
Compton defeated Stead in Heat 6 with Parsons in third spot, so at that stage the Coventry lead was just two points, but they then began to flex their muscles with a sequence of 5-1s interrupted only by a marvellous ride by Ashworth in Heat 9.
Heat 7 saw Harris and Allen move clear of Cooper in the early stages, whilst in Heat 8 there was some good team-riding between Janniro and Burza as Parsons' early threat was repelled to put the lead up to ten points.
Ashworth was superb in Heat 9 as Stead looked set for his second win of the night, the Sheffield man switching for the inside on the second lap and blasting through going into the third bend, but it was only a brief interruption to Coventry's winning run as Allen trapped neatly from the inside in Heat 10 and Harris took Compton wide on turn two and out of contention.
A further 5-1 followed in Heat 11 as Janniro continued his productive night by teaming up again with Schlein, before Ashworth reduced the arrears with a six-point tactical ride win over Harris in Heat 12 - although one more lap would have been interesting as the British Champion gained colossal ground on the final circuit.
There was more good action in Heat 13 with Schlein and Stead making it to the first bend in front but Compton battling his way past Schlein mid-race - and then very nearly getting to Stead on the inside off the final bend. Stead, however, just held on in the charge for the line to get the verdict in the closest finish of the night.
Allen and Burza both rounded off extremely solid displays with another Coventry 5-1 in Heat 14, Wilson beaten on this occasion, but Ashworth had the final say in the meeting as he completed an impressive display with Heat 15 success over Stead and Janniro.
But with no falls, no engine problems and points scored all the way down the order, this was a most satisfactory way to open up the season, and it gets the Buildbase Bees straight back into the winning habit which they hope to maintain throughout the season.
SHEFFIELD 37 Andre Compton 0 3 1 2 = 6 Joel Parsons 1 1 1 0 = 3 Ricky Ashworth 2* 1 3 6^ 3 = 15+1 Ben Wilson 3 3 1 1 0 = 8 Paul Cooper 1 1 1 0 = 3 Lee Smethills 2 0 0 0 = 2 Sam Martin 0 0 0 0 = 0