COVENTRY Storm got their season up and running with an all-round team display to see off local rivals Cradley 51-39 at Brandon.
It was the third successive season that the City Gearboxes Storm had defeated the Heathens at home in the National League, and there was no doubt it was a thoroughly deserved victory.
Cradley will point to a raft of dropped points after a series of escapades during the course of the match, and they will be frustrated not to have left with a league point.
But there were many positives for the Storm, with captain Martin Knuckey right back to his best with an 11-point haul, Ryan Terry-Daley clocked up paid-12 in the middle-order, and Conor Dwyer took the big scalp of Heathens skipper Ashley Morris with the ride of his career in Heat 1.
There was late concern when Liam Carr crashed heavily in Heat 15 and was taken away with his foot in a cast – but thankfully there appears no serious damage, and Carr was able to walk himself after treatment.
The meeting turned decisively in the Storm’s favour early on as none of the Heathens’ power-packed heat-leaders were able to win their opening races.
Dwyer superbly held Morris at bay in Heat 1 with Dan Greenwood third, and then the visitors lost Bradley Andrews to an ankle injury after looping in Heat 2, with Jamie Halder and Callum Walker both passing James Purchase in the re-run.
It got worse for Cradley in the next when Luke Chessell fell on turn three as he challenged Knuckey, which impeded team-mate Jack Kingston and allowed Terry-Daley through as the visitors both came to grief.
Guest Ben Morley suffered defeats at the hands of both Carr and Greenwood in Heats 4 and 6, and with Carr unbeaten from his first two rides and Dwyer controlling Heat 8, the Storm led by twelve points at the halfway stage.
That became 16 in fortuitous fashion in Heat 9 when clear leader Morley fell on turn two on the last lap due to a shed chain, and the margin remained unchanged going into the final five races.
Heat 11 turned into one of the craziest of the season with Morris backing off to allow team-mate Ben Basford to the front, only to be passed for second place by Carr. The Storm man just made it round Basford going into the last lap with the Heathens rider out of shape, and as he just recovered Carr and Morris went wheel-to-wheel into turn three – contact appeared to be made, but as Carr went down the race was awarded as a Cradley 5-1.
But the Storm got that back straight away when Chessell threw away certain victory in Heat 12 by falling on the last bend, and that left Cradley fighting for a consolation point at best.
They picked up a 5-1 through Morley and Morris in Heat 13, but their hopes ended as Knuckey dominated Heat 14 with Kingston’s fall then enabling Halder to take second place.
The finale saw Morley and Carr tussling hard on the first lap with the Cradley guest pulling off a fine ride to lead, but as Carr tried to regain ground on turn four, he hit the fence heavily to end the race with the Heathens awarded a 5-1.
Coventry boss Laurence Rogers said: “That was an awesome performance from everyone, starting with Conor’s great Heat 1, then the kids got a 5-1 in Heat 2 and it all went from there.
“It makes a change to have some good luck, and there was also some cracking stuff in there tonight.
“It was great to have Martin Knuckey back as Martin Knuckey, and a big thanks go to Max Fricke and Chris Anderson who spent the day working with him and getting him completely sorted out.”
TRAVEL PLUS NATIONAL LEAGUE COVENTRY 51: Martin Knuckey 11, Ryan Terry-Daley 9+3, Conor Dwyer 8+1, Liam Carr 7, Jamie Halder 6+1, Dan Greenwood 6, Callum Walker 4+2 CRADLEY 39: Ashley Morris 12+2, Ben Morley 10, Luke Chessell 7, James Purchase 5+2, Ben Basford 4+1, Jack Kingston 1+1, Bradley Andrews 0 National League points: Coventry 3 Cradley 0