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Report by Glenn Collins
06/08/23 Kent Royals 50 -v- Workington Comets 40 [National Development League ]
There was jubilation for the Kent Royals as the Workington Comets were eclipsed on Sunday (6th August) afternoon, with the hosts running out 50-40 winners in an entertaining fixture at The Old Gun Site. For The Royals it was a testament to an all-round performance with their top 4 riders winning 11 of the 15 heats, led by Sussex born Nathan Ablitt, who top scored with 13 points, and well supported by Ben Morley who scored 11+2. There were also key contributions from guest Matt Marson and captain Tom Woolley, who scored 10 and 9 points respectively. It is a victory that could act as a springboard for The Royals as they head into a busy spell of fixtures with visits to Oxford and the return fixture against Workington to come in the next seven days.
After a shared opening race, Connor King marked his return to the reserve berth by taking Heat 2 in a magnificent tapes to flag style, but once again the points were shared, and it started to look like it was to be a nervy encounter for both teams. The hosts however had other ideas and raced into an eight point lead with a three race salvo which featured two 4-2 wins in heats three and five, and a maximum 5-1 in an eventful fourth heat. Heat leaders Nathan Ablitt and Ace Pijper went head-to-head, and Pijper made the start, but it was Ablitt who got his wheels in line and moved inside Pijper going into the third bend. Pijper came down, and the referee, Mr Si Humphrey-Kennet, adjudged that Pijper was the rider at fault and he was excluded from the re-run. It was the start of a tough afternoon for the Workington rider. The re-run saw the Kent duo of Ablitt and Connor King storm to the finish for a 5-1 maximum.
A run of three shared races kept the 8 point lead in place. Heat 9 saw a terrific scrap develop between Kent captain Tom Woolley and Ace Pijper. Woolley had led from the tapes, and Pijper had thrown everything at the Kent captain, but going into the last lap Pijper dived inside Woolley, bringing him down, and earning Pijper his second exclusion of the meeting. The referee awarded the race to Woolley, and the 4-2 pushed The Royals lead to 10 points. Heat 10 pushed that lead to 12 points, with Ben Morley and Connor King taking a successive 4-2.
The best that Workington could respond with came in heat 12, when they secured a 2-4 of their own, reducing the gap to 10 points. Heat 15 was to produce the race of the day, described by a fan as “being worth the entry money alone” on social media. Workington’s Connor Bailey, who had won heat 13, was outgated by the home duo of Ablitt and Morley, and for three and a half laps it looked like it would be a 5-1 win for the hosts. Bailey had other ideas, and the current British Under 21 Champion took the outside line and passed not one, but both Royals on the run to the finish line.
Speaking after the match, manager Jamie Willis told the SFM Sports Team: “I am absolutely delighted with the performance and the result, we thoroughly deserved it. Our top 4 all recorded a minimum of two wins each which helped us massively, and they were supported by Connor (King) who is starting to show that his confidence is returning”. Jamie also revealed that “I was tough on the boys before the match, stating that it was a must win. I had faith that they were up to the task, but they needed to deliver. I’m proud of all of them for standing up and proving themselves”.
Next up for Kent is on Tuesday (8th of August), with the re-arranged Oxford away fixture, which will see new signing Ashton Vale make his full debut for the club, after appearing as an Additional Rider in the home defeat to Leicester. Then on Saturday 12th, the team makes it way to the Northwest for the return fixture against Workington at Northside.