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Team Talk week 12 - Saturday 13th July
Photo by Dave Payne
Sat 13 Jul 2013 by Tony Jackson
Saturday 13th July 2013
Hello and welcome to the latest edition of ‘Team Talk' – which is running a week late due to the trip to Somerset and partial journey home on Friday night with the journey being finished off on Saturday morning after a few hours sleep in a ‘Premier Inn'!

Since then a combination of having to work for a living and doing essential speedway paperwork in my spare time has meant that I haven't had a chance to sit down and write the column until now – but on the plus side at least it will be up to date; up to and including today – Saturday 13th July!

As usual, we will run through everything in the order it happened, which unfortunately means starting off with the shock home defeat to Ipswich two weeks ago.

Looking back, neither I nor the riders can put their finger on why it happened. We knew that Ipswich were in a far better run of form than they had been in their KO Cup visit two months previously – but in many ways so were we – especially as we went into the match on the back of the glorious victory at Redcar just two days previously.

For some reason we simply weren't gating on the night and with Ipswich gating very well and passing difficult we simply did not win enough races – it is as simple as that. To only win six races at home was not good enough, nowhere near good enough, and that ultimately is why we lost. Too many of the side had an off night on the same night – which can happen in any sport and can happen in speedway quite easily – even teams like the Poole Pirates have had such disappointing nights in the past when they were an all-conquering side.

The only one of our side that was gating was our guest Micky Dyer, which is why he ended up in heat 15 as we knew that out-gating the Witches, especially Ben Barker, was our only real chance to take something from the match. I initially asked Rusty to ride in heat 15 but he said that he simply was not getting off the starts from anywhere and it would be a waste. After much discussion between our top three and myself I gave Rene the other heat 15 ride as he was the only rider to beat Ben Barker all night and he did that from gate 2, which he was convinced he could do again.

Unfortunately he was just and only just, beaten into the first corner and despite a valiant effort he was unable to catch Barker and with Micky having been forced wide on the first turn the last 100% home record in the Premier League was gone!

After such a defeat the entire team was much deflated and it felt as if we had wasted our efforts from Thursday's visit to Redcar. We all kept in touch over the following week and I was delighted to see that the entire team was hurt by that defeat, which proved that it meant something to lose a match.

A sure sign of how good a team actually is comes when they have to bounce back from such a defeat and I was delighted with how they did that in our next match – the re-arranged KO Cup match at Somerset although in the end that proved to be not our night; as the late Ian Thomas sometimes said: “If it wasn't for bad luck we would have no luck at all”.

We went down to the Oak Tree Arena with a six-point lead, which many felt wasn't enough! I know that before the home leg I had felt we needed a double-figure lead to have a realistic chance of winning through on aggregate.

But, once the meeting got underway it was clear that, on a track which was apparently slicker than usual, some of the Rebels were having an off-night, just as we had against Ipswich the previous weekend and we capitalised on that to go into an early lead with a 5-1 in heat 2.

However, the Rebels hit back with a 5-1 in heat 4, which was awarded after Rene crashed on the back straight when, having started from a 15-metre handicap following a tapes offence, he had looked set to pass both Somerset riders until they closed the door on him leaving him with nowhere to go but into the fence. But, after seven races we were all square on the night.

Kyle and Chris put us in front with a 5-1 in heat 8 and for two laps of heat 9 we seemed set for another 5-1 with Ashley riding the race of his season – until his fuel leaked out of his fuel line on lap 3 while Nick Morris then passed Rene at the same time and a potential 5-1 suddenly became a 2-4.

Richard and Kyle put us back in front on the night with a 5-1 in heat 11 and two shared heats saw us two points up on the night with two races to go. All we needed from the last two races were two points to force a replay or three points to get through to the semi-finals!

But, the incredible chain of events in Heat 14 turned the cup tie on its head – by the way, not to be confused with the way it was described in this week's 'Speedway Star' column! The start saw Tero blast away from the gate and emerge well clear of the Rebels pairing as they came out of turn two – only for him to grind to a halt when his plug cap came off!

Chris continued to give chase and drove up the inside of the Rebels guest Damien Koppe on turn four of the first lap before he lifted and careered across the track, ploughing into Koppe as they both went sprawling into the safety fence.

The referee had no option but to exclude Chris as the cause of the accident while Tero was also excluded from the re-run as he was not under power at the time of the stoppage. So, an unexpected 5-0 for the Rebels meant a 5-1 for them in heat 15 would put them through while a Rebels 4-2 would put us through.

However, it was the Rebels pairing that made the gate and while Kyle chased for all he was worth it was not to be and the Rebels 5-1 saw them go through by a single point on aggregate – absolutely unbelievable! To say we were ‘gutted' was a vast understatement!

As I mentioned previously, although we lost, you could not fault the way the team rode and yet again it showed what we could do with a full side of our own seven riders – the whole team feels different when we have that and the dynamic of the side certainly works.

It also gives us great confidence ahead of when we return to the Oak Tree Arena for the Premier League fixture and shows that we have nothing to fear there and could return with at least a point for our efforts. At present we do not have an agreed date for our next visit to Somerset but it is becoming increasingly likely that it could be yet another mid-week date. Incidentally, while on the subject of dates for fixtures we still do not have a date for our home fixture against Edinburgh, but a September date is now looking highly likely for that one.

The positive attitude of the Comets was again in evidence last Saturday when we took on Leicester who, although they had a few problems – including the absence of Lasse Bjerre following a bizarre injury picked up while playing football in Denmark, were no match for the Comets. Again we had all seven team members contributing to the total in what was a very solid team performance.

Away from the track we continue to try and promote the club wherever we can and last Sunday saw the Comets have a stand at the annual Vintage Rally at Distington, which was a great event, attracting around 5,000 people, and is an event which we will certainly attend again. Representatives of the club and riders have also visited several schools in recent weeks as we continue to spread the word about the Comets.

With no match this week Tero returned home to Finland for a few days where he has also spent some time trying out his engines and bikes on his local track. Meanwhile Richard has been racing for Lakeside at Birmingham on Wednesday and at home last night, and Ashley has a guest booking this evening at Berwick for the Bandits in addition to racing for Dudley earlier in the week.

Kyle has also had a busy week with his new doubling-up role at Swindon, and made a dream debut as he top-scored with 12 points from five rides at his local track Belle Vue on Monday to become the match-winner as the Robins ran out 47-42 winners.

He rode at Swindon on Thursday and then last night at Lakeside he was again instrumental in the Robins away victory as the Robins ran out 47-43 winners with Kyle getting 9+1 from five rides, including a last place in his fifth ride.

Bizarrely Kyle met Richard (5+2 from five rides) in all five of his races – getting the better of his skipper on the first four times they met. From a team manager's point of view it made for a nervous evening and I was just glad that they both came through the match unscathed – particularly with the PL Fours coming this weekend when no guests or RR are available of course!

Looking ahead at the Fours we certainly want to do better than the past two years where we have finished third on each occasion, which although a creditable finish it is something we want to better this year.

Looking down the line-ups for each team the winner could come from anywhere, with all eight teams having a solid top four – although the news that this evening's World Cup Event 1 in Poland has been postponed will certainly put an air of gloom over Somerset as it means they will have to go into action without their number one Jason Doyle – but I genuinely feel that we have as good a chance as any of the teams and it is all about how we perform on the day.

With Richard and Rene having plenty of experience of the track having ridden for the Panthers there last year and Kyle clearly in good form, along with the vast experience that Rusty has of the place – including being part of our winning side way back in 2001 when we won the competition for the first time at Peterborough. In fact Rusty even featured in a clip from that meeting in an edition of BBC's ‘Question of Sport' later that year when he pushed his bike round the track for a point that he ended up not getting – although he did get to eat Stoney's ice lolly as on a hot afternoon!

This coming weekend sees us have a long journey down to Plymouth on Friday to take on the Devils who are under a new promotion this season with a greatly revamped side. They have now signed Swedish rider Sebastian Alden from King's Lynn as a double-up rider following the news that Aussie Ty Proctor will have to miss the rest of the season with a neck and back injury. Alden spent last season with Berwick and I am sure that he will find the tight confines of the St. Boniface Arena massively different to Shielfield Park.

Following the match at Plymouth on Friday we have the 400 plus mile journey north to take on Somerset at Derwent Park next Saturday evening at 7 o'clock and again we will need to be at our best as they are a good side; despite the fact we pushed them close at the Oak Tree Arena last week. After all, we only beat them by six points at home in the KO Cup match last month.

Finally, we would like to say a very big thank you to those people that have already contributed to the ‘Safety Barrier Fund' which is going to be in full swing very shortly. Like all other tracks, we are currently looking at various fund raising ideas as we aim to get the barrier (either an Air Fence or a Polyfoam barrier) in place to enable us to come to the tapes at the start of next season.

Until next time,

Tony J
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Last Updated :  Sat 13 Jul 2013, 18:59 UK
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Photography
Dave Payne, Adrian Randall