COVENTRY’S interest in the National League KO Cup is effectively over after a 34-56 first leg defeat at the hands of high-flying Kent at Brandon on Friday.
The Kings gave arguably the best display of any visiting side at this level since the City Gearboxes Storm joined the league in 2013, and their margin of victory was a fair reflection of their supremacy and confirmation of the form which now has them unbeaten from 13 matches this season.
Kent were faster from the starts for much of the meeting and limited mistakes, with Ben Wilson proving an ideal guest for Danny Ayres as he raced to a 12-point maximum whilst skipper Luke Bowen dropped just one point from five rides.
Despite the scoreline, there was some close racing and tight finishes, with Conor Dwyer just holding off impressive teenager Jack Thomas for third place in Heat 1, whilst Callum Walker re-passed Danno Verge for second in the reserves’ race.
Ryan Terry-Daley moved inside David Mason in Heat 3 but the visitors were providing a series of race winners, and they hit the Storm for a double blow in Heats 4 and 5 with successive 5-1s.
The first was fortunate as clear leader Liam Carr’s cut-out came adrift on turn four, but the second was emphatic from Bowen and Thomas as Kent went 21-9 up.
The Storm then managed some race wins with Dan Greenwood, Conor Dwyer and Carr all taking the flag in a four-race spell – Dwyer fending off massive pressure from Thomas and Luke Clifton to do so in Heat 8.
But in between, Greenwood suffered a 5-1 reverse against Wilson and Mason in Heat 10 to extend the Kent lead to 16 points.
Terry-Daley overhauled Verge for third place off the final bend in Heat 12 as the Kings man was trying to get past Walker, but the visitors still finished with three successive 4-2s.
In both Heats 13 and 15 they gated on maximum advantages only for Greenwood to slice inside James Shanes going into turn one, and the strength-in-depth and experience of the Kent team was again in show with Mason and Clifton carding a 4-2 in Heat 14.
Storm boss Laurence Rogers said: “We had no answer at all – being without Marty (Martin Knuckey) and Jamie (Halder), and rider replacement scored us five points.
“I’ll give Henry Atkins his due, he battled his heart out and got his first point, but we’re just down on power and Kent are flying, they’re a strong side all the way through.
“It was just one of those meetings where there was no way of catching up. They made very few mistakes, and their team-building has been excellent this year as I’ve said before, especially now they have Luke Clifton at reserve.”
NATIONAL LEAGUE KO CUP, 2nd round, 1st leg COVENTRY 34: Dan Greenwood 10, Liam Carr 8, Ryan Terry-Daley 6+1, Conor Dwyer 5+1, Callum Walker 4, Henry Atkins 1, Martin Knuckey r/r KENT 56: Luke Bowen 14, Ben Wilson 12, Luke Clifton 10+1, James Shanes 8+1, David Mason 7+1, Jack Thomas 4+3, Danno Verge 1