TABLE-TOPPING Poole put themselves into a strong position halfway through this Knockout Cup semi-final leaving the Buildbase Bees needing to win at Wimborne Road on Wednesday.
But stranger things than that have happened this season and Coventry are still very much in the tie with their revised line-up at least battling back for a draw after finding themselves six points down with three heats to go.
Bees didn't enjoy the best of fortunes and new reserve Filip Sitera collected a hand injury in a Heat 8 altercation with Magnus Zetterstrom, but they did show plenty of spirit to not allow the tie to slip away completely - which could easily have been the case as the Pirates twice built up a six-point cushion.
The early part of the meeting was closely fought in slightly tricky conditions with some pre-match drizzle fortunately easing, and Hans Andersen got the perfect start to his Coventry career with a comfortable win in Heat 1 after making a good start from gate three.
Poole, though, packed the places after Olly Allen locked up on the third bend having gone wide on the second, and the visitors went in front in Heat 2 when Daniel Davidsson, a regular winner of that race, gated well to head home Ben Barker, Sitera losing out on third place to a little extra knowledge from Freddie Eriksson.
Barker had answered a late call-up for the Bees after Andreas Messing pulled out on the day of the meeting, and the Swede now looks likely to have ridden his last race for the club.
Bjarne Pedersen stormed from the gate to make a straightforward job of Heat 3, before Bees levelled up in Heat 4 thanks to a fine first and second bends from Simon Stead, taking Davey Watt wide to briefly allow Sitera into second place. Watt rounded Sitera off turn four, but the Bees reserve was still comfortable in third before Davidsson stopped with a lap to go.
Disaster struck, however, when Harris suffered engine trouble just before Heat 5 and had to hop on to Barker's bike to beat the two-minute time allowance. However, he could make no impression and with Billy Janniro also beaten by Chris Holder and Zetterstrom, the Pirates had struck the first major blow.
That was followed by a 4-2 in Heat 6 with Andersen beaten to the first bend by Watt and Allen running a second consecutive last place, but Bees at least took a 4-2 of their own in a terrific Heat 7. Stead checked out from the gate, but the scrap for the minor places was a thriller with Barker rounding Skornicki at the end of lap two, and Pedersen doing all he could to get his partner back into third place whilst protecting second himself.
Sitera's accident came in Heat 8, a race which saw Allen get things right to put himself up at the front, with Zetterstrom missing the start on this occasion. Sitera had ridden a good race in third, but Zetterstrom dived down the inside going into turn three on the last lap in a move which had to be judged as borderline, given that he almost ploughed into team-mate Davidsson, straightened up and hit the fence himself before emerging in third place. Sitera went down, picking up the injury in the process, but the referee was unwilling to consider any Coventry protests about the result.
It was Neil Middleditch who was next to the phone in Heat 9 as Eriksson went down as the riders went into turn three as he clashed elbows with Janniro, but on this occasion the call went Bees' way and Eriksson was excluded. The re-run saw Harris hit the front, as he had done in the initial staging, using the outside to pass Watt on turn two with the Poole man just clamping Janniro on turn three as Bees briefly threatened a 5-1.
Andersen took an excellent win in Heat 10 with a sweet cut-back off turn two to take him beyond Pedersen and Skornicki, and it left Allen in a promising position too until he was picked off on successive laps by the Pirates riders, which kept Poole two-up into the interval.
Not unexpectedly, the lead was extended in Heat 11 with Stead on the unfancied inside gate - although it was Zetterstrom who flew from the outside to win, Stead holding Holder at bay ahead of Barker, who clattered into the fence exiting turn four and did well to stop on.
A further Poole 4-2 followed in Heat 12 leaving Bees contemplating a possible first-leg defeat, although Harris thought he had the beating of Pedersen when he rounded him on the second lap only for Pedersen to respond with a great inside pass of his own half a lap later.
Bees responded in Heat 13 with Andersen dominating the first two corners and Stead riding a superb turn two to go between Holder and Watt, and then cover his team-mate on the inside throughout the remainder of the race.
That opened up the chance of Bees taking a first-leg lead, but Skornicki had other ideas and even though Janniro gated in Heat 14 the Polish Champion made a surprise move down the inside to take the lead, and then did very well to maintain it in the face of Janniro's strong return challenge.
So Poole went into the last race with a two-point lead, and that seemed to be enough to win on the night when Pedersen entered the first bend in front in Heat 15 - but Harris chased him again and this time made the move stick on the outside, Andersen only just failing to follow him through on the inside as Pedersen briefly found himself caught in mid-track.
Bees, in the end, had to settle for a draw, but it had been an encouraging showing against strong opposition, and there has to be the hope now that in the Elite League at least, Bees can win away to improve their position. As far as the Cup is concerned - an away win is essential!
BUILDBASE BEES 45 Hans Andersen 3 2 3 3 1 = 12 Olly Allen 0 0 3 0 = 3 Chris Harris 2 0 3 2 3 = 10 Billy Janniro 1* 1 1 2 = 5+1 Simon Stead 3 3 2 2* = 10+1 Ben Barker 2 1 0 0 1 = 4 Filip Sitera 0 1 0 = 1
POOLE 45 Chris Holder 1* 3 1 1 = 6+1 Magnus Zetterstrom 2 2* 1* 3 0 = 8+2 Bjarne Pedersen 3 2 2 3 2 = 12 Adam Skornicki 0 0 1* 3 = 4+1 Davey Watt 2 3 2 0 = 7 Freddie Eriksson 1 1 X 1 = 3 Daniel Davidsson 3 R 2 0 = 5