Comets versus Newcastle at Derwent Park, at 7:30pm this Friday!
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TEAM TALK - Week 4
Photo by Dave Payne
Sat 20 Apr 2013 by Tony Jackson
Saturday 20th April
Here we are again after another typical week for the Comets, which is anything other than a quiet week with everything going to plan!

As usual, the easiest way to pick your way through everything that goes on behind the scenes and on the track is simply to go through it in the order that it happened, starting with last Saturday's home fixture with Newcastle. That fixture was always expected to be a bit tougher than the ‘Ian Thomas Shield' meeting two weeks previously; and so it turned out.

In many ways we were fortunate to get the meeting on as the forecasts had all been predicting heavy rain for much of the day, although thankfully the bulk of it failed to materialise. But, typically, the curse of speedway promotion occurred when the worst rain that we got came around the 5:30 to 6:00pm time slot – just as supporters were deciding whether or not to venture out. What also made it worse is that within a mile or so of the stadium the weather was considerably worse than it was at the track.

However, both sets of riders showed a willingness to get the meeting on and thankfully the rain we had did not amount to much, although the heavy rain that was forecast did affect track preparation as it was vital to keep the track sealed, so it was not feasible to really rip up the surface beforehand.

Once again we made a terrific start to our meeting with the Diamonds to go ten points ahead after just six races, and that was despite Kyle shedding a rear chain when in a scoring position in his opening ride. Although to be fair the Diamonds also lost the services of Stuart Robson in the opening heat with mechanical problems. In fact on two occasions, after heat 6 and heat 8, the Diamonds elected not to use a tactical ride and on each occasion a Newcastle rider won the next race. But, hindsight is a wonderful thing and no doubt they felt that a better opportunity could be exploited later, but later never came!

A series of heat advantages for the visitors saw the Comets ten-point lead eroded until, after conceding a shock 5-1 in heat 13, the scores were tied. Then, when heat 14 was drawn, it came down to a last heat decider, which thankfully Richard and Rusty were able to close-out in great style.

But overall it had been a close run-affair as, for the second time in three days, we had basically thrown away a potentially match-winning lead, although on this occasion we were able to pull a 5-1 out of the fire to save the day.

Obviously this is not something we want to make a habit of doing and afterwards we held a big team meeting covering all manner of things to try to get to the bottom of the problem, as well as reviewing many other aspects of everything we were doing, which we all felt was very beneficial.

Before the next Comets meeting the only other team member in action was Kyle, who was racing for Poole on Wednesday, at home to Wolverhampton, in what turned out to be a home defeat for the normally invincible Pirates. On this occasion Kyle had a different mechanic in the pits – Rene Bach! Rene had been spending a couple of days with Kyle down in Manchester and made the trip to Dorset with him, but in the end he got pressed into service as Kyle's mechanic – although Rene felt that he didn't charge Kyle enough for his services as all he got paid was food at a ‘Sub-Way' after the meeting! This poor rate of payment was made even worse as the next day he got pressed into helping Kyle clean his bikes after the Poole meeting in readiness for our match at Sheffield the next day.

The Sheffield match was expected to be a tough fixture but it turned out to be a much stranger match than expected.

The meeting was a strange one in many ways. The rain, which fell an hour or so before the meeting changed the track in such a manner that our lads definitely liked it a lot more than the home riders and when we won the coin toss we selected gates 2 and 4, which was the obvious choice on the night. This gave us those gates four times in the opening six races and by heat 5 we had opened up an unexpected – by both sets of fans – 22-8 advantage.

We actually provided the first across the line in all five opening races but from then on an extensive amount of track grading was starting to take place as the track clearly wasn't how it normally is in the eyes of the Tigers, and from then on we only provided two race wins –both from Rusty Harrison, with the first one (in heat 7) being rather fortunate in the end as Rusty picked up a puncture on the final lap but he was just able to hang on to take the flag, while the second one in heat 12 almost didn't happen as Rusty was feeling very sore after taking a big bang to his ribs when he fell heavily as he exited turn two for the final time in heat 10. We persuaded him to ‘give it a go' and see what happened and although in a lot of pain he was able to do the race and win but on returning to the pits he immediately ruled himself out of heat 15 as he was in far too much discomfort.

As the track conditions changed we just could not provide enough race winners and so the Tigers closed the gap. But, we were still confident that we could hang on to take the victory, but when we were unable to share heat 14 it put all the pressure on us again for the final race where, for a lap it looked as if we would get the points needed before a burst from Richard Hall to get through to second place behind Simon Stead shattered those hopes.

To say the team was devastated at the end of the meeting was a huge understatement and it certainly felt ten times worse than the previous week at Redcar. We just could not believe it had happened again. But, on the night you could not have asked for any more. Every one of the team had taken a win or a paid win, which away from home is a rarity. They had all pitched in to help each other throughout the night in all aspects and really did not deserve that result. As Richard said afterwards: “Everyone will be able to look back and think, if this, or if that, then maybe I could have got that one point that we needed to claim the win?” But, over 15 heats, with seven riders that will always be the case in any match. Speedway history is littered with ‘ifs'.

The whole team was hurting like never before after that result and it has doubled their determination to avoid such a thing happening again – although no doubt it will sometime, somewhere, as that is the nature of the sport as we have seen down the years. But, an experience like that has just galvanised the spirit within the camp even further.

You have to look back and take positives from the meeting – and there are plenty.

We left Owlerton with a point, which I am sure many fans would have accepted beforehand – it is only when given the opportunity to take more that you are left disappointed. Every rider contributed with vital points and race wins. Kyle looked a lot more like his old self, Ashley's change to his clutch set-up seemed to be working much better – as his victory in heat 2 will testify, and Chris continued to impress from the reserve berth. If we can go to Owlerton and perform like that we can go almost anywhere and put on a show and that will surely bring us the rewards that we deserve.

Last night saw Richard, Kyle, Chris and Ashley all in action at Edinburgh's Armadale Stadium in the first British semi-final. Recent years have shown this track not to be amongst the happiest of hunting grounds for our lads and last night was no different. All four failed to qualify for the British Final, with all except Richard biting the dust at some point, but all have reported that they will be fit to ride this evening. The biggest crash came in heat 20 when Kyle took a heavy fall that knocked the wind out of him as well as completely writing off his bike. So, it proved a costly night for him.

Meanwhile, Rusty is still pretty sore following his fall on Thursday at Sheffield, having knocked his ribs and his leg, but he will be fit to take his place this evening for the return visit of the Tigers, which promises to be another tough meeting owing to the number of Derwent Park specialists within their team, the main one being ex-Comet Simon Stead of course. But, all the lads are desperate to make amends for Thursday's defeat and a cracking match looks in prospect on a day when the weather looks like being kind to us as well.

A full ‘Meeting Preview' of this evening's match against the Tigers can be found elsewhere within the Comets News section of this website.

Tomorrow, with a 6:30pm meeting start time, we head over to Newcastle for our final group match of this year's League Cup competition. Following our one-point defeat at Redcar last week, and more importantly the home point dropped to the Diamonds last Saturday, we need to win this match and take three points, although to take all four would obviously be even better, in order to have a chance of reaching the semi-final of the competition.

The narrow defeat at Redcar didn't really alter things in many ways as no doubt Newcastle will fancy their chances of success at the South Tees Motorpark too. It was the loss of the home point to Newcastle that had the greater significance, which is why victory at Newcastle is a must. It is not just a case of getting points but the fact that if we get them then they can't get them – ‘a six-pointer' as they often refer to it in football. But, at least it keeps it simple enough – a win there is a must.

The coming week sees Kyle and Ashley in action at Wolverhampton on Tuesday evening in the British under-21 Championship Final, which is always a keenly contested event and this year's event will be no different. Victory in this is always seen as a big step towards a possible successful career in the sport, and there are some fairly illustrious names on the trophy – such as Gary Havelock, Mark Loram, Joe Screen, Tai Woffinden, Scott Nicholls, going right back to the days of Michael Lee, Chris Morton and Peter Collins to name but a few. So, we wish Kyle and Ashley all the very best in that meeting and hope that one of them can bring the trophy to Derwent Park.

Then, on Thursday of next week, we face the long journey down to Ipswich for the first leg of the Knockout Cup first round tie, starting at 7:30pm. Again, that promises to be another tough fixture, but they all are this year in what is a very competitive Premier League.

The return leg takes place at Derwent Park next Saturday at 7:00pm, with the winner over the two legs facing Somerset in the second round.

Then of course, following that fixture, our next away meeting will be at Scunthorpe on Tuesday 30th April, which is to be televised live on Sky TV. Obviously we all want to give a good account of ourselves on our visit to The Eddie Wright Raceway for that one. Previous visits there have seen us have good meetings and bad meetings so let us hope that this is one of our better ones. I'm sure it will look good on tv and I must admit that, in my opinion, Premier League racing has always produced some of the better matches shown on tv in recent years.

Scunthorpe promoter Rob Godfrey has reduced adult admission to just £10 for this fixture to encourage a good crowd and a great atmosphere in the stadium for the tv cameras. I know that the Workington Speedway Supporters Club are planning on running a trip to give the lads plenty of support and it promises to be a great night.

In fact it was announced this week that Sky TV will also be going to Berwick on May 21st to cover their Premier League clash with Newcastle, which is more great news for the Premier League and hopefully more fixtures from our league can be shown over the remaining months of 2013.

Sky TV have only shown speedway from Derwent Park once before – a Premier League Pairs event, but we hope that one day we too will get the chance to have a Premier League clash shown from Derwent Park. The recent stadium refurbishment works mean that all the facilities are in place to allow such an event to be broadcast, while a good showing on tv at Scunthorpe on Tuesday 30th April will not do our chances of getting the cameras to Derwent Park any harm!

Finally, we are still pretty much in the same position as last week with regard to Mason Campton. Work is still going on over in Australia to try and resolve the problem and, as previously stated, he has a top immigration lawyer working on his case, who still believes there are very good grounds for the decision to be reversed.

The main problem is that all these things take time and it is just so frustrating, disappointing and annoying for all concerned. But obviously the one who we all feel sorry for in all this is Mason, who is caught up in bureaucratic red tape when all he wants to do is race his bike and pursue his chosen career, with the Comets.

Until next time,

Tony J
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Last Updated :  Sat 20 Apr 2013, 14:50 UK
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Photography
Dave Payne, Adrian Randall