Picture courtesy of Steve Dixon
By Derek Barclay
The whole Kent club are left in shock and dismay at the latest serious injury to befall the hugely popular racer Luke Clifton, who was hospitalised after a horror heat two crash in Monday's (19th June) evening's Kent SLYDE Kings away match against Cradley Heathens.
Making his comeback appearance after being out with broken ribs, the Canterbury born rider was leading in his first ride in heat two when he went over the unusual track camber on the back straight under pressure by Cradley reserve Conor Dwyer. The heavy fall into the fence was instantly evident as a serious one - the long treatment on track worsened fears and early indications are that in addition to further rib and internal injuries Luke has suffered a bad break to his leg.
After such a calamity and long delay while the ambulance took their stricken team mate to hospital, it's remarkable that the SLYDE-sponsored Kings bounced back so admirably that they were at parity with their hosts all the way up to heat 8 and only four behind with just four heats to go.
A superb 5-1 by Jack Thomas and Ben Hopwood put the Kings ahead after three heats and a Luke Bowen win over Kings' old adversary Dan Greenwood kept things level going into six. There awaited former Kent favourite Danny Ayres and though he prevailed, Nathan Stoneman and the busy Anders Rowe took the vital second and third places.
Heat eight was a vital race and Bradley Andrews back at his old home track delivered a superb race win. At the halfway point against the odds the visitors were level at 24-24.
Heat nine was sadly a turning point - the shorthanded Kings fielded only Stoneman and he was sandwiched out of it by Greenwood and Luke Harris; the Welsh born hard man of the track forced into a near pirouette and taken out of significant points scoring. The 1-5 reverse put the visitors behind by four and they were never to recover.
Ayres came from behind to beat Hopwood but a race win by Bowen over the opposing skipper Tom Perry kept the margin to four until a calamitous heat 12 with Ryan Burton a hugely unlikely race winner shepherded home by Greenwood. Events in an unlucky heat 13 cemented Kent's fate with Stoneman unaccountably excluded for what was defined as delaying the start. Bowen produced a brilliant battle keeping Ayres at bay but now the gap was ten. There was time as the curfew closed in for just one more completed race won splendidly by Thomas.
Heat 15 was started and resulted in further calamity for the SLYDE Kings. Ayres, Thomas and Bowen all dived at full spend into the bend together, with the Kent skipper running out of space and smashing against and then seeing his momentum take him under the safety air fence. Initial diagnosis showed a serious arm injury including a crack at the top of his humerus and shoulder blade. The Kings' number one is following up investigative procedures on Tuesday morning to find out what ligament damage there may be. The injury will mean Bowen joining his namesake on the injury list for Thirsday's (22nd June) visit to the Isle of Wight to take on the Ryde-based Warriors in TPNL action.
Cradley Heathens 47
1. Danny Ayres 3, 3, 3, 1 10
2. Joe Lawlor EF, 0, 0 0
3. Dan Greenwood 0, 2, 3, 2' 7+1
4. Luke Harris 1, 1', 2', 1' 5+3
5. Tom Perry 3, 3, 2, 3 11
6. Conor Dwyer 3, 0, 1', 1', 2 7+2
7. Ryan Burton 1, 1, 2, 3 7
Kent SLYDE Kings 37
1. Luke Bowen 2, 3, 3, 2 10
2. Bradley Andrews 1', 0, 3, F 4+1
3. Ben Hopwood 2', 1, 2, EF 5+1
4. Jack Thomas 3, 0, 1', 3 7+1
5. Nathan Stoneman 2, 2, 1, 0 5
6. Luke Clifton F/X withdrawn - injured 0
7. Anders Rowe 2, 0, 1', 0, 1, 0 4+1
1. Ayres, Bowen, Andrews, Lawlor (EF) (3-3)
2. (rerun) Dwyer, Rose, Burton, Clifton (fell exc.) 4-2 (7-5) (Clifton - Fell / Excluded)
3. Thomas, Hopwood, Harris, Greenwood (8-10)
4. Perry, Stoneman, Burton, Rowe (12-12) 57.87
5. Bowen, Greenwood, Harris, Andrews (fell rem) (15-15) 57.38
6. Ayres, Stoneman, Rowe, Lawlor (18-18)
7. Perry, Hopwood, Thomas, Dwyer (21-21)
8. Andrews, Burton, Dwyer, Rose (24-24)
9. Greenwood, Harris, Stoneman (fell rem.) (29-25) 58.31
10. Ayres, Hopwood, Thomas, Lawlor (32-28)
11. Bowen, Perry, Dwyer, Andrews (fell) (35-31)
12. Burton, Greenwood, Rowe, Hopwood (EF) (40-32)
13. Perry, Bowen, Ayres, Stoneman (exc delaying start; 15 m handicap) (44-34)
14. Thomas, Harris, Dwyer, Rowe (47-37) 59.5
15. (stopped - not rerun) Ayres, Perry, Bowen (fell exc.), Thomas
Curfew reached - meeting abandoned; result stands