Picture courtesy of Steve Dixon
By Derek Barclay
The Travel Plus National League [TPNL] ‘Derby' match between Kent and Lakeside, which was always predicted to be closely fought, went right to the wire on Monday (14th August) at Central Park Stadium - with the home side holding on at the death to prevail by a solitary point.
The longer tail of the side from Essex was always likely to be the Hammers' Achilles Heel and indeed it was eventually the more solid scoring in the hosts' ranks which saw the SLYDE Kings home - but only just. In fact, the destiny of the match hinged on two very different moments. In heat two after the beleaguered Hammers' reserve pairing were given something of a lifeline when Bradley Andrews had been excluded for bringing down Connor Locke, the Lakeside number six managed to make a mess of remounting after a second tumble, going across the white line and being disqualified. The ‘lost point' was crucial in the end.
Then when the Lakeside big two, former Kent Kings' superstars and renowned track specialists Ben Morley and Stevie Boxall were set loose to wrap things up for the visitors in heats 13 and 15, they reckoned without the tenacity and skill of stand-in Kent skipper Jack Thomas. His defeat of Boxall in heat 13 was something of a career landmark and ensured (after Ben Hopwood and George Hunter delivered the goods in the penultimate race) that the Kings had a lead to hold onto going into the final reckoning. Then Boxall under pressure from Thomas (defending a 100% match winning record as captain) came to a premature halt and caused a pile up in that last heat. The Lakeside guest's exclusion ensured an eighth shared heat in this tightest of scraps and gave the play-off chasing hosts the narrowest and most crucial of victories.
Fortunes were mixed for two distinguished competitors making somewhat belated Central Park racing debuts. Kentish motorcycling legend Paul Hurry managed a solid enough paid double figures tally (though twice headed home by new generation star Thomas). But the ‘Guest' hoodoo came back to haunt Chris Hunt with the Kent team boss seeing the pick at number one, former Elite League rider Adam Roynon scoring just a solitary point - behind team mate Anders Rowe to add a bonus in the opening heat but then failing to finish a single other race. It does seem that only Ben Morley can successfully wear the number one race jacket as a Guest - his rich run of form (rarely has there been such an impressive run in the sport) continuing with his 15 points maximum albeit this time in opposition body colours.
Four double figures tallies out of the six in the Invicta race jackets was outstanding in the most difficult of circumstances. Thomas was an inspiration; Hopwood's paid 12 continued his excellent recent run of form; Rowe is taking to his move into the main body of the side with aplomb; and Hunter's paid 13 must've been extraordinarily sweet considering events earlier this year involving Lakeside.
Kent can now look to move to the cusp of the top four on Friday when they travel way out west to Plymouth looking to carry on their most timely of winning runs. Next week at home there's a break from the white hot cauldron of TPNL play off qualification-chasing with the annual staging of the John Cearns Cup and the visit of a side representing the famous London club the Wimbledon Dons.
Kent SLYDE Kings 45
A Roynon 1' R R F 1+1
A Rowe 2 1' 2 2' 1 8+2
B Hopwood 1 2 2 1' 3 1' 10+2
Rider Replacement - N. Stoneman
J Thomas 3 2 3 2 2 2 14
B Andrews X 0 1' 1+1
G. Hunter 3 1' 3 1' 2 1 11+2
S Boxall 3 3 3 1 X 10
N Laurence 0 0 1 1
P Hurry 2 2 2' 3 9+1
A Bowtell 0 1' 3 2 6+1
B Morley 3 3 3 3 3 15 [M]
C Locke X 1 0 0 R 1
J Couzins 2 0 X 0 2
1 Boxall, Rowe, Roynon, Laurence 59.1 (3-3)
2 (rerun) Hunter, Couzins, Locke (exc. left track), Andrews (exc. UR) 61.8 (6-5)
3 (rerun) Thomas, Hurry, Hopwood, Bowtell (fell rem.) 59.3 (10-7)
4 Morley, Thomas, Hunter, Couzins 58.6 (13-10)
5 (rerun) Boxall, Hopwood, Rowe, Laurence 59.1 (16-13)
6 Morley, Rowe, Locke, Roynon (ret.) 58.9 (18-17)
7 Thomas, Hurry, Bowtell, Andrews 59.4 (21-20)
8 (awarded) Hunter, Rowe, Laurence, Couzins (fell exc.) (26-21) no time
9 Morley, Hopwood, Hunter, Locke 60.9 (29-24)
10 Bowtell, Hurry, Rowe, Roynon (ret) 60.9 (30-29)
11 Boxall, Thomas, Andrews, Locke 61.3 (33-31)
12 Hurry, Hunter, Hopwood, Locke 61.5 (36-35)
13 Morley, Thomas, Boxall, Roynon (fell) 61.0 (38-39)
14 Hopwood, Bowtell, Hunter, Couzins 61.6 (42-41)
15 (rerun) Morley, Thomas, Hopwood, Boxall (exc. UR) 59.8 (45-44)