Due to demand Tai Woffinden is now to do an EXTRA SHOW at Workington earlier the same day!
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TEAM TALK - Week 6 - 6th May
Photo by Dave Payne
Mon 06 May 2013 by Tony Jackson
Monday 6th May 2013
Hello and welcome to another edition of ‘Team Talk' – now this one really could take quite a while to get through as so much has happened in the past nine days, so I recommend that you get yourself a hot cup of coffee and are sitting comfortably before reading this week's episode!

Every week you think that the following week will be quieter than the last but it never is – although due to the way the fixtures have been, and are going to be, then I think it is a certainty that things will quieten down a bit after this week – but don't quote me on that one!

We will start as usual where we left off last time; so it is back to our last home match, which saw Ipswich visit Derwent Park in the Knockout Cup.

Going into the second leg with a twenty-point deficit was not ideal but I firmly believed that we could pull the points back and pull them back we certainly did – with interest.

To a man we were determined to get through to the next round of the cup. It is of course at least two extra meetings for the team but also we didn't want to go out of the competition in the first round; and to do so in April would be a disaster. It is vital to maintain an interest in all the major competitions for as long as possible otherwise your season can effectively be over before it has really got going.

I looked down the respective line-ups and thought that if we hit them hard from the start then they would struggle to contain us and that is basically what happened. Even so, I will admit that even I was surprised at the way we went at them.

To have reduced the 20-point deficit to just 8 points by heat 4 was the stuff of dreams and by heat 8 we were just 2 points down on aggregate. By that time you start thinking that if we throw it away from the position we are in then we deserve to go out. Then, within one heat, we were in front overall. However, you always think about what is the worst that can happen and so we just kept going until it was a mathematical certainty that we were through, and that came in heat 14. So, in the end it was nice to go into the last heat just racing ‘for fun' as we were already through – it made a pleasant change to have no pressure on that one.

Despite the big score it was an exciting match as we chased the total and I am sure that had our target been 12 points or so, instead of 20 points, it would not have been as entertaining as it was.

Overall, another great team performance with some interesting statistics to back it up as we broke through the 60-point barrier for the second successive home match: Our biggest winning margin of the year so far (32 points), 11 race winners, seven 5-1's, only two last places – and they were due to retirements, six different Comets won a race, Rusty collected a four-ride paid maximum and our guest, Micky Dyer, picked up the first paid maximum of his career at Premier League level.

While talking about guests, I thought that both Craig Cook and Micky rode exceptionally well for us, so a great big thank-you to them and their respective promotions for allowing us to use them.

We now go forward to race Somerset in the quarter-finals and that will be tough but, having seen what we did to Ipswich, I am certain they will realise that it will be tough for them too.

After the joy of seeing off Ipswich the next task was to perform well at Scunthorpe in front of the tv cameras, and with hindsight we did just that.

This was the first time we have ridden on Sky for a while. In fact I think the last time was around 2008 up at Edinburgh – when we got well beaten at Armadale – now there's a change! If I remember correctly that was when we had current GP star Tai Woffinden as a guest for Daniel Nermark and Tai had a nightmare evening too.

Overall the Sky TV appearance went well, and it certainly won't have done the club or the Premier League any harm whatsoever. In fact, although I am obviously biased, I feel that the Premier League matches shown on Sky in recent years have out-classed those of the Elite League. The racing is generally more competitive, with a smaller spread of ability in each race from the best rider to the worst rider – that increases the number of potential race winners in every race and hence then the racing is more entertaining and less predictable.

From a personal point of view it was the first time I had been directly involved in a tv match and the only difference I noticed was that there seems to be a bit more hanging around. The riders have to be changed sooner and obviously you have to work around the commercial breaks but overall that is insignificant compared to the publicity generated for the clubs involved and for the Premier League.

As regards the match itself, obviously we were disappointed not to get the win but we can't really complain about going to the home of the league champions and coming away with 2 points from a drawn meeting.

You always look back at the meeting and analyse where points may have slipped away – an easy one is in heat 7 when Josh Bates fell and got caught up in the air-fence on the opening lap while Kyle and Rusty were on a 5-1. Typically, in the re-run David Howe made the gate and we had to settle for a shared heat – it is incredible how often that happens in the re-run.

Naturally the controversy regarding the heat 15 crash between Micky Dyer and David Howe grabbed the headlines and had the result been called another way we might have won the meeting – I guess we will never know!

We all watched the replay many times in the pits on the monitor and again when we got home and it is far from clear cut, but on balance I still think the decision made by the referee was not how I saw it – although I guess I am bound to say that aren't I? – As I said on the ‘phone to him at the time. But, that's speedway – sometimes they go for you and sometimes they go against you. Who would be a referee eh?

The choice of riders to represent the Comets for heat 15 provided an interesting scenario. The rules are pretty simple – it has to be one of the top three in the averages OR one of the top three scorers on the night – including bonus points and from programmed rides only. So, the top three averages were Craig Cook, Rene and Rusty while the top three scorers were Craig Cook, Ashley and Micky Dyer – all on paid 8 points. It is the first time I have known two of the top three scorers going into heat 15 to be reserves.

Craig was the obvious choice as he is such a good starter and we knew that if he could get away then we would at least get a draw, while neither Rene or Rusty were comfortable with the track, which was much slicker than normal. So, with Micky having won two races he got the nod.

The Scorpions had the choice of gates and predictably they took gates two and four – gate four had won the SEVEN previous races, so it was clearly the best gate.

However, a fantastic first lap had us in the driving seat until the clash between Micky and David Howe. Then, in the re-run things looked bleak on the first lap until a sensational move by Craig saw him go from third to first to secure the draw – which I feel was the very least that we deserved.

But, as I said earlier, a great night of speedway, a great advert for the Premier League and a great team effort. Meanwhile, we could not have asked for any more from our two guests; who each performed magnificently, so a big thank-you to them.

The elation of the Sky match was pretty short-lived when just six hours later we got word from Australia that Mason had his appeal against his visa refusal rejected – or in simple terms – he can't join us this year. That is a devastating blow for the lad, who just wants to race his bike for the Comets, as he has said previously. Obviously it is a blow for the club too, as when we were building the team in the winter he was a key part of our plans for 2013. But, the longer the situation dragged on the more we all began to fear the outcome, especially when Sam Masters saw his appeal rejected, but you live in hope until the hope has gone.

However, as you have no doubt read elsewhere, Mason has already been named as the first rider on the team sheet for next season – how is that for advance planning?

With regard to this season that obviously means that Chris will be with us longer than initially envisaged and we have no complaints about that whatsoever. In the short time that he has been with us he has fitted into the team very well and gets on with everybody and it is just such a shame that he has picked up the wrist injury when he did. However hopefully another two weeks will see him back on a bike and scoring more points for the Comets.

Our next time on track came on Saturday with a visit to Berwick – always an excuse to visit Robert Smith's chip shop just past the stadium and under the bridge, and it didn't disappoint!

Ahead of this match Richard declared himself fit to race after ten days on the sidelines following his crash at Birmingham when riding for Lakeside, which meant that we just needed one guest – for Chris. We had originally looked at using Micky Dyer this weekend for both matches – he is in the form of his life at present and was a key factor in Redcar's big win at Sheffield on Thursday and in the return fixture at Redcar on Friday, with big double figure scores in both matches. But, he was unavailable, so we needed a plan B, which meant using Edinburgh's Hungarian rider Jozsef Tabaka for the match at Berwick, who has a good record around Shielfield Park.

We were also going into that match without Rene Bach, who was in action on that day back in Denmark in the Danish Championship semi-final at Holstebro; where he claimed the fifth and final automatic qualifying berth after defeating Kenneth Bjerre in a run-off after both had tied on 10 points - so, very well done to him. That means Rene will be in action in the two-legged Danish Final, which takes place on Friday 24th May at Slangerup and on Friday 30th August at Holsted, both of which are dates that have been kept clear in our fixture list since we were putting the fixtures together back in January for that very reason. We had originally kept the date of the semi-final clear as it had been listed as Saturday 11th May, but after our fixtures were agreed it was then moved forward by a week in order to avoid a clash with World under-21 Championship qualifying rounds for any young Danes competing in both competitions. Sometimes you can pre-plan as much as you like but then external forces render your planning a total waste of time!

Our visit to Berwick ultimately proved to be a successful one as we claimed our first away league victory of the season – I guess we were building up to it as we had a one-point defeat in our first away league match at Sheffield, a draw in our second at Scunthorpe and now a win in our third at Berwick!

Yet again a great performance from the team and our guest for the night; who picked up 8 points, which would have been 10 points had he not shed a chain in heat 2. We also claimed 7 paid 8 from Rene's four programmed rides using Rider Replacement – the only option open to us under the rules, so overall it was a great effort all round.

We were a little worried when we fell eight points behind after just three races however once everyone had ridden the track once we were able to change a few things and we soon fought our way back into the match.

Going into the final heat two points down we knew we had at least one point as long as we had a finisher, but a 5-1 would give us a win and three points. The Bandits had choice of gates and took 2 and 4 but we made the better start and with Rusty out in front a great ride by Richard covered all of the attacks made by David Bellego to hold on to second place and secure a well-deserved victory.

It was great to see so many Comets fans over at Berwick, as it was at Scunthorpe, and their support was greatly appreciated by the riders, who were only too pleased that they were able to give them a victory to celebrate – which always makes the journey home a bit easier too!

No doubt the Bandits will be coming to Derwent Park looking for revenge this evening and generally they put on a good show against us so we will need to be on our guard to take all three points available and maintain our position at the top of the Premier League. I know it is early days but no matter at what time of the season it is you would always prefer to be at the top of the league rather than the bottom!

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

Going into this evening's meeting, Richard will no doubt be feeling a bit better having now got a meeting under his belt on Saturday while Rene will be back with us. He is flying into Manchester and travelling up to the track with Kyle.

Meanwhile our guest this evening in place of Chris is our old friend Chris Schramm, who is riding for Plymouth this season.

Chris was very popular when he rode with us back in 2010 and it was only the distance from his home to Workington that prevented him returning the following year, but he jumped at the chance to ride as a guest for us tonight in place of his injured mate Chris Mills. Just under two weeks ago Chris scored 9 points at Sheffield in the British Championship semi-final, so he will be in action on tv next Monday at Wolverhampton in the British Final. Naturally we wish him all the best in that meeting, as we do tonight.

Following on from tonight's Premier League fixture we have another four-heat Northern Junior League fixture, this time between the Workington Meteors and the Berwick Border Raiders, so please stay behind and support them if you can. I don't know how many of you stayed behind to watch the juniors last week after our victory over Ipswich, but there were a couple of absolutely cracking races that were on a par with anything we saw in the main meeting. Racing is the best way of bringing these youngsters on as they can learn so much more than just riding round and round on their own. Yet again, I can't praise Craig Branney and his team enough for the fantastic work they are doing with the youngsters over at the Northside Training Track, which is an absolutely terrific facility.

Following this evening's meeting we have a relatively quiet spell coming up – in some ways we are glad of the rest! We have had nine matches in a 25-day period throughout April followed by two matches this weekend, after which we have just two team matches in the next 32 days. However, there is still a lot happening and also several fixture changes which we need to inform you about and why.

We have no meeting at all next weekend, but with Chris injured, Richard still getting over his recent injury and also both Kyle and Ashley away in Europe competing in the World under-21 qualifying rounds it is perhaps just as well. Kyle is racing at Lonigo – the scene of Stoney's famous 1999 Grand Prix Challenge meeting that saw him reach the Grand Prix, while Ashley is racing at Rawicz in Poland. Whatever happens it will provide valuable experience for them both and a top five finish in either meeting will see qualification to the three-round World Under-21 Championship Finals – one of the three rounds takes place at Berwick on Saturday 10th August, which is also a date we have kept clear in our fixtures in order to avoid a possible clash and so allow fans to make the trip over there, as well as covering ourselves in case one of our riders reached the final stages of the competition.

Incidentally, Kyle and Ashley have been included in the seven-rider squad for the World under-21 Team Cup, from which a four-man team will be selected to represent Great Britain in the semi-final at Gdansk in Poland on Saturday25th May. Should one or both of them make the final four-man team we will be entitled to a guest (as opposed to rider replacement on this occasion for Kyle, as he would be on Team GB duty, which has different rules regarding replacing absent riders) for our home meeting with Glasgow on that day.

Other fixture news that came through this week was that we had qualified for the Premier League Pairs at Somerset on Friday 31st May, which is the night before the Cardiff Grand Prix. Our representatives will be Richard and Rene. We have qualified as third highest seeds and will be racing in Group B. This is always a really excellent night's racing and I would urge anyone going to the Cardiff Grand Prix to come along to Somerset the night before and make a great weekend of it. We of course won the event last year with Rene and Adam Roynon, who stepped into the pairing at the last minute when Richard had to withdraw with a back injury on the day of the meeting. Hopefully there are no such last minute emergencies this time around.

While on the subject of the Cardiff GP weekend, you can also call in at Leicester on the way home and take in Kauko Nieminen's Testimonial on the Sunday, which promises to be another great day. Nemo is a great bloke and will always be considered ‘a Comet' no matter who he rides for, and our own rusty Harrison will also be taking part in that meeting; so why not break your journey home from Cardiff by calling in at Leicester and supporting Rusty and Nemo.

While talking about Leicester we have had to change the dates of both of our league fixtures with the Leicester Lions.

In order to plug a gap in both of our fixture lists we will now be visiting Leicester this month, on Saturday 18th May to be exact. This means that their visit to us moves to the date we were originally due to visit them, so we now host Leicester at Derwent Park on Saturday 6th July. That has the double benefit of not having three matches in three days in early July and it avoids a clash with Workington Town as we were both scheduled to be at home on Sunday 7th July; which while it has happened before it is much easier for everyone at the stadium if it can be avoided.

Incidentally, our Knockout Cup match at Somerset is no longer going to be on Friday 14th June because Somerset are now hosting Edinburgh on Tuesday 11th June in a re-arranged fixture to be shown live on Sky Sports. As their planning consent does not permit two home matches within seven days our KO Cup match has had to move. In order to get out of that problem our league visit to them on Friday 5th July will now be the KO Cup match and we are currently trying to find a new date for our league visit to The Oak Tree Arena. As you can see, it is all good fun trying to sort out fixtures – and that is without any rain-offs!

Finally, after today our next home meeting will be against our great rivals the Glasgow Tigers, who like us, are also under a new promotion in 2013. But, with Joe Screen in their line-up, as well as former Comet James Wright, we are still likely to see some great racing.

Right, that's all for this week, I told you it would be a long read and I bet that cup of coffee has gone stone cold by now!

Until next time,
Tony J
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Last Updated :  Mon 06 May 2013, 10:54 UK
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