Picture courtesy of Steve Dixon
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By Derek Barclay
Kent SLYDE Kings opened their Travel Plus Tours National League [TPTNL] campaign with a 58-31 victory over Buxton Hitmen on a very warm Bank Holiday Monday (7th May) afternoon at Central Park Stadium here in Sittingbourne.
The SLYDE Kings were led by a superb 15 point maximum by captain Luke Bowen - however the victory came at a cost. That cost is a potentially nasty foot injury sustained by reserve Jacob Clouting who crashed whilst leading the reserves race (his very first race at his new home track) and after receiving lengthy treatment on the track took an ambulance ride back to the pits and was withdrawn from the rest of the meeting.
The home season started in perfect fashion with captain Bowen and Anders Rowe, like many times in 2017, teaming up for an opening race 5-1 to set the Kings on course for victory. The second heat was very truncated - firstly Lewis Whitmore fell on the first corner with the referee giving the benefit of the doubt to visiting rider and putting all four riders back for the re-run. Then, home debutant Clouting looked set to make the dream start to his career in team Speedway before he locked up exiting bend four on the second lap, falling alarmingly and prematurely ending his afternoon. The third staging saw Alex Spooner make a jump at the start and narrowly avoid hitting the tapes. The final staging saw Whitmore make the gate before Spooner rounded him at the end of the second lap to claim his first heat win in Kent colours.
The next race provided the Kent fans with another moment to savour when comeback man Nathan Stoneman teamed up with new signing Taylor Hampshire for the SLYDE Kings' second maximum heat advantage in the opening three heats. Buxton guest Jon Armstrong earned a very warm round of applause after winning the fourth race after he spent a lot of time with the stricken Clouting after his crash in the second race - a typical action from one of the sport's most rightly respected personalities..
The impressive hosts were 10 points to the good after six races - before Jack Thomas claimed his first home race win of the new season in the seventh with a stylish tape to flags victory before an eventful heat eight. Firstly birthday boy Rowe (he's 'Sweet Sixteen' this Wednesday) was warned for moving at the start of the race; however more drama was to follow in the second staging as Whitmore failed to get to off the line, then Spooner took a tumble trying to pass Corban Pavitt. In the third staging teenager Rowe comfortably won from Pavitt who fell on the last bend but pushed home for the second place - this moved the home side 13 points up.
By the end of Heat 10 the gap was 19 points in favour of the SLYDE Kings, after a 4-2 from Stoneman and Hampshire in the ninth and a second 5-1 from the Bowen/Rowe partnership and victory was sealed for Kent after heat 12. Stoneman took his third win of the afternoon and with Spooner taking the third place point, it moved the homesters 21 points up with three races to go.
Bowen took his fourth straight win in heat 13 when he again jetted from the gate to fly past the flag. Thomas passed the visitors' number one Ben Wilson to secure another heat advantage in favour of the home side before the drama started again in Heat 14. The Buxton duo of skipper Tom Woolley and Whitmore gated and led for the majority of the race. Whitmore drifted wide and Taylor Hampshire dived through on the inside, leaving room for the Hitmen's reserve but who then straightened up and came down and was excluded - a belligerent Whitmore unaccountably remonstrated with sections of the crowd and gestured towards the box. The match was then finished as it started with a Kent 5-1 this time with the entirely dominant Bowen and the almost equally impressive Welsh Dragn Stoneman taking the spoils.
Three TPTNL points in the bag early on in that campaign and a healthy attendance were a good start to the home season for the Kent SLYDE Kings who move on now to two National Trophy fixtures away on Saturday (12/5) to Eastbourne and at home to Plymouth on Monday (14/5).
Kent SLYDE Kings 58
L Bowen 3 3 3 3 3 15 [M]
A Rowe 2' 1 3 2' 8+2
N Stoneman 3 2 3 3 2' 13+1
T Hampshire 2' 1' 1 2 6+2
J Thomas 2 3 3 1 9
A Spooner 3 1' 1 X R 1 1' 7+2
J Clouting X 0
Buxton Hitmen 31
B Wilson 1 3 2 0 6
C Pavitt 0 X 0 2 1 ` 3
Rider replacement - David Wallinger
T Woolley 1 2 1 2 3 0 9
J Armstrong 3 2 2 2 1 10
K Douglas 1' 0 0 0 1+1
L Whitmore 2 0 0 X X 2
S Woolley 0 0
1 Bowen, Rowe, Wilson, Pavitt 56.6 (5-1)
2 (rerun) Spooner, Whitmore, Douglas, Clouting (fell exc.) 63.8 (8-4)
3 (rerun) Stoneman, Hampshire, T.Woolley, Pavitt (fell exc.) 60.2 (13-5)
4 Armstrong, Thomas, Spooner, Whitmore 60.6 (16-8)
5 Wilson, Stoneman, Hampshire, Pavitt 60.4 (19-11)
6 Bowen, Armstrong, Rowe, Douglas 59.7 (23-13)
7 Thomas, T.Woolley, Spooner, Whitmore 61.1 (27-15)
8 (rerun) Rowe, Pavitt, Whitmore (exc.). Spooner (fell exc.) 61.7 (30-17)
9 Stoneman, Armstrong, Hampshire, Douglas 61.6 (34-19)
10 Bowen, Rowe, T.Woolley, S.Woolley (fell rem.) 62.2 (39-20)
11 Thomas, Wilson, Pavitt, Spooner (ret.) 60.5 (42-23)
12 Stoneman, T.Woolley, Spooner, Douglas 63.1 (46-25)
13 Bowen, Armstrong, Thomas, Wilson 60.1 (50-27)
14 (awarded) T.Woolley, Hampshire, Spooner, Whitmore (fell exc.) no time (53-30)
15 Bowen, Stoneman, Armstrong, T.Woolley 62.3 (58-31) 62.3