Picture courtesy of Steve Dixon
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By Derek Barclay
The Kent TouchTec Kings took a hugely significant step towards securing National League [NL] Play Offs qualification with a 47-43 win over rivals Belle Vue Colts in a very entertaining match at Central Park Stadium on Monday evening (19th August).
The matches between the sides have been settled as closely as the proverbial cigarette paper on a number of occasions this term and so it proved again, with the result going down to yet another last heat decider. To be fair to the gamest of opponents, no one in the Kent camp would certainly begrudge the visitors from Manchester their bonus point by keeping the margin down to just four points; and if the two teams could yet meet in the play-off final that would be a prospect to be relished by all.
Seven heats into the encounter and just two points separated the protagonists. Belle Vue had taken the early advantage with Connor Bailey holding off the ardent attentions of Jake Mulford in a rerun heat two (after the unlucky Chris Watts had suffered a second exclusion in as many races) - oddly though, the much vaunted Aussie, Bailey was to score just a solitary point more; whereas Mulford in his first match as a fully- fledged Kings' man stole the show - a paid 13 return being unlucky for the Colts for sure.
It was Mulford combining with skipper Jordan Jenkins which saw the hosts make the first significant move in heat eight. This was followed by Dan Gilkes (relishing his role as heat leader for a first time) completing his third heat win of the match in the following race - and suddenly the margin was eight points. However the Colts were certainly not going to lay down - with a win from Jordan Palin over Anders Rowe in heat 10 being the first of two successive heat advantages for the plucky visitors; the second being a maximum from the skipper Kyle Bickley and Ben Rathbone and suddenly the gap between the sides was back to just two points.
Cue Mulford to the fore again with his now trademark barnstorming performance with no regard for the reputation of opponents, bringing the packed stand to its feet: a sensational win over Palin in heat 12, moving the hosts into a four point advantage they were not to surrender.
There were some fascinating personal duels. Mulford and Bailey was one. Another was Rowe against Danny Phillips - with a right old-fashioned ding-dong scrap in heat 12 seeing the teenaged Kings' number one show huge determination and not a small amount of muscle to barge himself past the experienced Belle Vue man.
But the highlight in terms of one on one battles was between the fellow GB U21 World Cup squad members Drew Kemp and Leon Flint - honours being shared, with the excellent Flint taking heat 13 to keep his side in the race but then recently crowned national U-19 champion Kemp getting the win in heat 15 to secure the match for the Kings and move them level on points with Leicester at top of the NL table.
Team boss Chris Hunt summed it up, telling the SFM Sports Team: "It showed brilliant spirit to bounce back from the disappointment the day before [the away loss to Mildenhall]. All the boys were heroes out there today - Dan got close to a first ever maximum, one will be coming soon; Drew was awesome; Anders was so determined; Jordan showing his leadership qualities again; and Jake - well he was out of this world, what a prospect he is!"
Kent TouchTec Kings 47
Anders Rowe 3 2 2 1' 8+1
Robert Ledwith - Rider Replacement
Jordan Jenkins 1 1 3 1 1 7
Dan Gilkes 3 3 3 2 0 11
Drew Kemp 3 3 FX 2 3 11
Chris Watts FX FX 0 0 0
Jake Mulford 2 0 1' 2' 1 3 1' 10+3
Belle Vue Colts 43
Kyle Bickley 2 2 3 0 7
Ben Rathbone 1' 0 1 2' 4+2
Jordan Palin 2 1' 3 2 1' 9+1
Danny Phillips 0 2 1 3 6
Leon Flint 2 3 2 3 2 12
Sam Woods 1 0 0 0 1
Connor Bailey 3 1' 0 0 4+1
1 (rerun) Rowe, Bickley, Rathbone, Watts (fell exc.) 57.1 (3-3)
2 (rerun) Bailey, Mulford, Woods, Watts (fell exc.) 59.7 (5-7)
3 Gilkes, Palin, Jenkins, Phillips 59.3 (9-9)
4 Kemp, Flint, Bailey, Mulford 58.8 (12-12)
5 Gilkes, Bickley, Jenkins, Rathbone 59.1 (16-14)
6 Flint, Rowe, Mulford, Woods 58.8 (19-17)
7 Kemp, Phillips, Palin, Watts 58.8 (22-20)
8 Jenkins, Mulford, Rathbone, Bailey 60.3 (27-21)
9 Gilkes, Flint, Jenkins, Woods (fell rem.) 60.5 (31-23)
10 Palin, Rowe, Phillips, Watts 60.0 (33-27)
11 (rerun) Bickley, Rathbone, Mulford, Kemp (fell exc.) 60.3 (34-32)
12 Mulford, Palin, Jenkins, Woods 60.2 (38-34)
13 Flint, Kemp, Rowe, Bickley 59.9 (41-37)
14 Phillips, Gilkes, Mulford, Bailey 61.3 (44-40)
15 Kemp, Flint, Palin, Gilkes 59.6 (47-43)