COVENTRY were denied any reward from their National League opener at Belle Vue as they went down 40-50 on Good Friday afternoon.
But that result far from told the story of an entertaining encounter in which the Europress Bees held the lead with six races remaining, only to frustratingly end up short of even a league point.
Danny Phillips was the Bees’ star performer as he was unbeaten in his first four rides, before missing out off the outside gate in Heats 13 and 15.
Tom Bacon proved a good guest for Connor Mountain at No.1, and Jamie Halder again racked up the points at reserve, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Colts from stretching clear in the closing stages.
Bees, operating rider-replacement for Luke Ruddick, had a dream start with a 5-1 from Bacon and Phillips in Heat 1 as new Belle Vue No.1 Tom Perry was kept back in third place, but successive 4-2s brought the Colts level – with Coventry captain Jon Armstrong suffering a second blown engine of the season already in Heat 3.
Phillips inflicted what would prove to be Colts skipper Jack Smith’s only defeat of the meeting in Heat 4 as the sides continued to trade 4-2s with Bees again taking the lead two races later with an advantage from Phillips and Halder, split by Perry.
But the Colts had their own more than useful reserve in youngster Ben Woodhull, and he took his second win of the meeting in Heat 8 with Halder preventing maximum damage by passing Paul Bowen for second.
Yet again the Bees took the lead in Heat 9, albeit in somewhat fortunate fashion as race leader Kyle Bickley hit trouble on the second lap and subsequently retired, Phillips having previously got the better of Joe Lawlor.
The Colts levelled once more in Heat 10 as more misfortune struck Armstrong, with a chain failure on turn four when racing on borrowed machinery.
With four races to go the scores were all-square at 33-33, but Belle Vue took the lead for the first time with a 4-2 in Heat 12 as Bickley got the better of Armstrong whilst Woodhull overhauled Halder on the third lap.
Another 4-2 followed in Heat 13 as Phillips missed out for the first time, Smith taking the flag and Perry supplying third place for the home team.
Heat 14 initially looked promising for the Bees to level the scores, but Lawlor worked his way past first Luke Harris and then Halder, whilst Woodhull also moved ahead of Halder to secure match victory for the home side.
That left the Bees requiring a shared heat or better from the final race for a league point – but they were to be denied as Belle Vue collected their only 5-1 of the meeting courtesy of Smith and Bickley over Bacon and Phillips, leaving the visitors with nothing to show for their efforts.
Phillips said: “We came with a set-up that we knew worked, and we watched the track as the meeting went on.
“We didn’t change anything for Heat 13 and then we did for Heat 15, but I had gate four twice and ideally around here you want gate four early on, because it gets really hard and slick with everyone riding across it, and there was just nothing there.
“I made a bit of a better start in Heat 15, but it still wasn’t enough with the dirt being that far out by that stage.
“But it’s still early days, and we all seem to be gelling together as one, which is a good sign for the future.”
TRAVEL PLUS NATIONAL LEAGUE BELLE VUE 50: Jack Smith 14, Kyle Bickley 11+1, Ben Woodhull 9, Tom Perry 7, Joe Lawlor 6, Paul Bowen 2, Kean Dicken 1 COVENTRY 40: Danny Phillips 11+1, Tom Bacon 10, Jamie Halder 9+1, Luke Harris 5+1, Jon Armstrong 4, Ryan MacDonald 1, Luke Ruddick r/r National League points: Belle Vue 3 Coventry 0