COVENTRY experienced one of their most frustrating nights of the season with a narrow 44-46 defeat in Monday’s Elite League local derby at Leicester.
A match the Buildbase Bees could and should have won slipped away in a succession of incidents in the second half of the meeting, and they had to be content with adding just one league point to their total.
Prime concern going forward is the fitness of Jason Garrity, who suffered further damage to his arm in a heavy first-bend crash in Heat 8 which caused his withdrawal from the meeting.
And with Bees already without the in-form Josh Bates at reserve, that incident was undoubtedly a catalyst in keeping the Lions in contention for a rare win – with late mechanical problems for Chris Harris also conspiring against the visitors.
Bees dominated the early race wins with Krzysztof Kasprzak, Kacper Woryna and Harris winning the opening three heats, by which stage they were 11-7 up.
Heat 1, in fact, could have been a 5-1 only for Aaron Summers to get past Garrity going into the second lap, but Woryna’s controlled win in the reserves’ race promised much for the night ahead.
A frantic Heat 4 saw the Lions pull two points back with guest Carl Wilkinson holding on to second place ahead of Josh Auty, but a strong first lap from Harris in Heat 6 put Bees four-up again as he moved back past Nicolai Klindt exiting turn four.
Danny King saved a 3-3 in Heat 7 with a terrific last-bend move to go past Szymon Wozniak, but problems began for the Bees in the next, first when the race was stopped and Garrity warned after appearing to have made a good start.
The re-run saw Garrity collide with Paul Starke from gates three and four, and the disqualification of the Coventry rider from the race was an understandable decision from the referee.
Woryna prevented maximum damage by splitting the Lions in the re-run, but the home side did go ahead in the next when Summers made it through the narrowest of back-straight gaps to join key reserve Ludvig Lindgren for a 5-1.
Kasprzak dominated Heat 10, and Bees took their chance in the next despite being out-gated, with Harris quickly making his way to the front and King again using the outside to get the better of Summers on turn four.
The match was levelled again with a Leicester 4-2 in Heat 12, which was heading for a 3-3 until Wilkinson clattered the fence on the exit of turn four – but if Bees were still happy to prevent a 1-5 reverse there, it was the Lions who were satisfied in the next when Harris’s winning run came to an end, and more crucially he suffered bike trouble on in the final stages.
The Bees captain still picked up third place being Patrick Hougaard with Kasprzak out-front to put Coventry 40-38 up, but it forced him to change machinery for Heat 15 – and in the meantime, King was out-gated by Lindgren and Klindt in Heat 14 and was unable to find a way through, taking the Lions into the decider ahead.
The odds still favoured Bees on paper with their top two on-track, but the change of bike did not work for Harris, and after being squeezed out from gate three he could not find the drive to get on terms with Klindt or Lindgren, whilst Kasprzak was a clear winner.
The 3-3 was enough for the Lions to take just their third Elite League win of the season, with Bees limited to one league point from the match.
Manager Gary Havelock said: “It’s very disappointing, because it’s a meeting we really should have won.
“We missed Josh Bates tonight, and it sums our season up really – we’ve talked about the consistency before, we go to somewhere like King’s Lynn and win, and you look at the teams on paper with no disrespect to Leicester and this is one we should have won.
“I wasn’t unhappy with Jason being excluded in the crash, but I was with the referee pulling the race back at the start for no reason. He was dialled-in and dropped his clutch faster than everyone else – it was poor refereeing.
“Fair play to Leicester, though, they kept at it and they’ve been the whipping boys for the last couple of seasons but there was plenty of fight in their team, so congratulations to them.”
ELITE LEAGUE LEICESTER 46: Ludvig Lindgren 12+3, Nicolai Klindt 10+1, Paul Starke 8+1, Aaron Summers 7+1, Szymon Wozniak 4, Patrick Hougaard 3+1, Josh Auty 2. COVENTRY 44: Krzysztof Kasprzak 13, Chris Harris 10, Danny King 7+1, Kacper Woryna 7, Jason Garrity 4, Carl Wilkinson 3, James Sarjeant 0.