COVENTRY'S final Elite League match of the season provided on one night a summary of how the campaign as a whole has panned out.
Throughout 2008 the Buildbase Bees have competed in meeting after meeting where one or more riders have been forced to pull out due to injury.
And on this occasion, not only was it a case of two riders not completing the match - it was the top two!
In those circumstances, and with third heat-leader Simon Stead racing for the first time since breaking his collarbone six weeks ago, the final result could not be viewed as any great surprise.
And the main reason for Bees notching a 40-point total was undoubtedly the terrific showing of 17-year-old Joe Haines, called in as a guest for the unavailable Filip Sitera, who showed true maturity as well as a turn of speed from the start to register a thoroughly deserved 14-point haul.
Belle Vue handed a debut to one-time Coventry rider Tomasz Piszcz, who had taken over as No.8 for what turned out to be their last meeting of the season.
Patrick Hougaard's recurring back injury after he had come through the World Under-21 Final at the weekend left him stuck on eleven Aces appearances this season - the appearance of Jason Lyons in the home team coming as no real surprise.
Track conditions were far from easy and Hans Andersen was the first rider to be caught out, having been out-gated by Jason Crump in Heat 1, as he lost all momentum on the second bend and dropped to the back, with the canny Lyons making his way inside Olly Allen on turn four when the Bees man went wide.
It was the perfect start for the Aces, but Bees responded in Heat 2 with a super start from Haines, off the profitable gate 4. The Workington regular was never threatened, and Piszcz found himself under pressure from Ben Barker, who had almost had his front end taken away on turn two in some congestion which also saw Billy Forsberg fall.
There was more tight action on the first two bends in Heat 3 with Billy Janniro the man out of shape on this occasion, and as Lyons established himself in the lead, Chris Harris had a nasty moment on lap two when he picked up drive and twisted, so nearly coming to grief and just managing to gather himself together to hold off Charlie Gjedde for second place. He took the two points, but it effectively ended his involvement with the rib and back injuries of Lonigo causing him discomfort.
Forsberg combined with Joe Screen for maximum points in Heat 4, although this was a close race with Haines doing all he could to find a way through and Stead, who had made a somewhat conservative start, also in the equation.
Bees hit back with a 5-1 of their own in Heat 5 as Andersen and Allen shot away from gates 4 and 2, Allen holding Lyons at bay on the first lap and then gradually pulling clear, but the advantage swung back to Belle Vue in the next with Crump and Forsberg gating to see off Stead and Barker.
Harris emerged to take his second ride in Heat 7 but it should have been obvious to all that he was severely restricted and unable to ride in his normal style - which enabled Piszcz to take a notable second place behind Screen as the Aces marched into a 27-15 lead.
At that stage, Bees were facing the prospect of a heavy defeat but they fought back in the next two races and could well have had 5-1s in each.
They held a comfortable position through Haines and Allen in Heat 8 only for Screen to lose it on the tricky third bend on the second lap, which meant the race could not be awarded. In the re-start, Haines gated but unintentionally impeded Allen, which allowed Forsberg a clear route to second place with Allen regaining control for third.
Bees did manage to bring home a 5-1 in Heat 9 as Barker showed the form which has made him such a useful rider on so many occasions this season, and was joined by Stead after a super move on turn two for a confidence-boosting paid win over Lyons and Gjedde.
There had been little in the way of overtaking after the first two bends, but Crump changed that in Heat 10 with a vintage ride to haul in Janniro, who appeared comfortable at the front and might have been joined early on by Barker only for the reserve to fall on turn two. Crump, though, switched his attack to the outside on the last lap and after being repelled on the pits bend, he squeezed around Janniro coming off turn four for a brilliant win.
Any slim chances Bees had disappeared in Heat 11 when Andersen too had to end his participation in the meeting, this coming after a heavy fourth-bend fall when he was contesting the lead with Screen.
Screen had made a terrific move around the outside and appeared to be set to move clear in the lead only for Andersen to suddenly stop and be flung off his machine, landing on his shoulder - and the Dane will be highly relieved not to have sustained worse damage.
The re-run was a processional affair with Screen leading Allen and Piszcz, and Heat 12 was shared with Gjedde recovering from a disastrous start to the meeting with a win over the Bees reserves.
Stead took a tactical ride in Heat 13, which was never going to be ideal against the strong Crump/Screen combination, but it was a battling effort from the Bees rider who initially rounded Crump on the third bend and held second place for two more laps before Crump again made a fine move around the outside, maintaining control on a line which had sent many previous riders far too wide earlier in the meeting.
That was a 5-1 which ensured Belle Vue's Elite League survival and confirmed that the relegation race-off will be between Wolverhampton and Peterborough.
Haines again underlined his talent by partnering Janniro to a 5-1 in Heat 14, the pair gating over Piszcz twice after the initial running was stopped when Lyons fell on turn two and was unable to clear the track.
The line-up for Heat 15 was unusual with Belle Vue in fact fielding their lowest two scorers of the evening - which presumably would not have been their course of action had an aggregate point been at stake, Bees having won the reverse fixture 52-40.
As things turned out, Gjedde made it two wins on the bounce with Haines and Stead happy enough to finish safely in second and third places ahead of Piszcz.
Bees therefore finish the Elite League campaign sixth in the table on 29 points - just one clear of the relegation zone, showing the importance of the recent win at Eastbourne in pulling them clear of danger.
But they still have a chance of winning a sixth major trophy in four years, and having all of their riders fit will be of vital importance ahead of the Craven Shield Final against Lakeside next week.
BELLE VUE 50 Jason Crump 3 3 3 2* = 11+1 Lukasz Jankowski Rider Replacement Charlie Gjedde 1 0 0 3 3 = 7 Jason Lyons 2* 3 1 1 X = 7+1 Joe Screen 3 3 X 3 3 = 12 Tomasz Piszcz 2 2* 1 1 0 = 6+1 Billy Forsberg 0 2* 2* 2 1 0 = 7+2
BUILDBASE BEES 40 Hans Andersen 0 3 X = 3 Olly Allen 1 2* 1 2 = 6+1 Chris Harris 2 1 = 3 Billy Janniro 0 0 2 2* = 4+1 Simon Stead 0 1 2* 1^ 1* = 5+2 Ben Barker 1 0 3 F 1* 0 = 5+1 Joe Haines 3 1 3 2 3 2 = 14