COVENTRY closed in on the National League play-off places by taking maximum points from their double-header at Leicester on Sunday.
Second to sixth in the table are now covered by just three points, with the Europress Bees crucially denying Birmingham any league points in the first match, which they won 53-36.
Events of that meeting helped make the second match against Stoke a tighter affair, but the fact that the Potters took a league point as the Bees won 48-42 is not of any consequence to Coventry’s position.
The concern, though, will be over the fitness of their outstanding No.1 Connor Mountain who suffered a suspected dislocated shoulder in an horrific Heat 13 pile-up with Birmingham guest Danny Ayres.
Track conditions had caught several of the Brummies out, especially on bends three and four, and Ayres shot across Mountain’s path at the end of Heat 1 only for Mountain to read it and turn back for the win.
But in Heat 13 the two were much closer and as Ayres attempted to steam through on the inside he straightened and went straight into Mountain, sending the two riders down heavily.
Both were able to walk away but Ayres suffered an arm injury whilst Mountain was withdrawn from the remainder of the meeting.
The events of that race summed up the Brummies’ day overall, as Ben Morley had also come to grief in the first running of the race with Bees skipper Jon Armstrong smartly putting the bike down.
The visitors suffered assorted other woes with Leon Flint crashing on turn two in Heat 3 after making a good start, Morley losing his steel shoe when second in Heat 6 to hand Bees a 5-1 and Jenkins grinding to a halt on the last lap of Heat 7 when set for a 5-1 with Flint.
But even without all that, Bees were by far the better team on the day with a whirlwind start putting the Brummies under pressure as Coventry led 13-5 after three races.
Reserve Luke Harris starred with paid-13 and rode superbly to re-pass Jenkins in Heat 8 with the Bees far more comfortable using the outside line.
Harris then pulled off an excellent first bend in Heat 12 to again defeat Jenkins, and with Luke Ruddick supplying third place it was effectively the end of the Brummies’ hopes.
Mountain’s withdrawal led to Bees calling up Jenkins to guest against the Potters, and he got off to a good start by defeating Tom Perry in Heat 1.
But with Ryan MacDonald falling having just moved into second place in the next race, it was a closer start to the meeting with only two points between the sides after six heats even though both Ruddick and Armstrong secured fine wins over Stoke skipper Max Clegg.
Bees picked up a 4-2 and 5-1 in Heats 7 and 8 and looked set to take full control when Jenkins led Heat 10 as Armstrong battled with David Wallinger – but just as Armstrong looked set to go through, Jenkins fell on the last bend and a probable Bees 5-1 became a Stoke 4-2.
The presence of Perry and Clegg in the final stages of the meeting kept Stoke in contention, but an expert job by Armstrong in Heat 11 saw him allow Harris to the front and keep Perry behind him for a key 5-1.
Even so, Stoke had got the score back to 41-37 with two races remaining – but Harris was the Bees’ hero in Heat 14 as he got out in front of Wallinger, who then fell under pressure from Jamie Halder to hand Coventry a match-clinching 5-1.
Bees now await dates for their final three meetings – home and away to bottom club Buxton, and at home to unbeaten leaders Mildenhall. Two wins from those meetings would almost certainly be enough for a play-off place.
Manager Martyn MacDonald said: “We’ve done what we needed to do, it’s as simple as that. The need was for six points, and we’ve achieved that.
“Two meetings in one day takes a lot to keep your machinery right and to keep yourself physically and mentally prepared, and we did enough.
“I was quite surprised that the Stoke meeting turned out to be harder than the Birmingham one, but that’s speedway and we got the six points so it’s job done as far as I’m concerned.
“Everyone always moans about under or over-watering, but I don’t think you can get a happy medium of a perfectly-watered track. When it’s watered, there are always going to be sloppy and patchy bits in the next race before it goes back to normal, but I felt we adapted better mentally to it than Birmingham did.
“The report I had on Connor was a possible dislocated shoulder, so we’ll have to see what happens. I’m sure he’ll be getting some treatment on it, so we’ll find out more in the next few days.
“Jordan then slightly twisted his knee in his fall but I don’t think there’s any lasting damage, and we very much appreciate the fact that he guested for us at short notice and helped us out no end – so a big thanks to him.”
COVENTRY 53: Luke Harris 12+1, Jon Armstrong 12, Luke Ruddick 9+1, Connor Mountain 9, Ryan MacDonald 6+3, Jamie Halder 5+2, Danny Phillips r/r. BIRMINGHAM 36: Leon Flint 10, Jordan Jenkins 9+2, Danny Ayres 8, Ben Morley 6, Josh Embleton 2, Sheldon Davies 1, Tom Spencer (no.8) 0, Callum Walker r/r.
COVENTRY 48: Jon Armstrong 13+1, Luke Ruddick 12, Luke Harris 11+1, Jamie Halder 5+3, Jordan Jenkins 5, Ryan MacDonald 2+1, Danny Phillips r/r. STOKE 42: Max Clegg 16, Tom Perry 9+1, David Wallinger 9+1, Paul Burnett 7+1, Arran Butcher 1+1, Adam Extance 0, Rob Shuttleworth r/r.