The Plymouth Westcolour Gladiators continued their increasingly impressive start to the 2022 season with another resounding Home win over the Oxford Cheetahs at The Coliseum last night.
Without their No 1 Edward Kennett who sees a Specialist about his serious Arm injury next Tuesday and also missing in-form reserve Dan Gilkes; who remains in Hospital in Scunthorpe awaiting the go ahead for surgery on multiple fractures to his arm, whilst his lung functions improve to a point where Doctors think it’s safe to operate and nursing 5 broken ribs, Westcolour Gladiators supporters were further given the news yesterday that West Country legend Chris “Bomber” Harris had been forced to pull out of a Guest Booking to replace Kennett due to illness.
Thankfully Evesham based former Plymouth rider Paul Starke stepped in to replace Harris at short notice which was very much appreciated by Westcolour Gladiators management, Ben Morley was again enlisted to ride at reserve to replace Gilkes and local NDL Centurions rider, Richard Andrews, stepped up to replace the departed Henry Atkins. With no disrespect to any of the Riders, it looked very much like a patched up Team and many Supporters arrived thinking the Westcolour Gladiators were at their most vulnerable at home so far in this League season.
There is one thing that bonds this rapidly improving and fast emerging crew though and that is spirit and sheer guts in adversity and once again they confounded all of the experts and expectations to deliver an outstanding 55-35 victory over a side containing former GP Stars in Troy Batchelor and Scott Nicholls, plus former Plymouth riders and track specialists in Kyle Newman, Dillon Ruml and Nathan Stoneman and the very much in form young British rider Jack Thomas.
After a first heat 2-4 reverse which saw Nicholls romp to what turned out to be his only win of the night, the impressive Morley won Heat 2 with Andrews falling when perhaps trying too hard to pass Ruml and Stoneman. The Westcolour Gladiators though exerted some authority when Michael Palm-Toft and Ben Barker both passed the fast starting Thomas with outstanding passing moves to win Heat 3 to give the Westcolour Gladiators a 10 points to 8 lead.
With Hans Andersen beating Batchelor and Morley again getting the better of Stoneman the Westcolour Gladiators stretch the lead to 4 points after Heat 4 before the red hot pairing of Palm-Toft and Barker delivered another team riding masterpiece to relegate Nicholls to 3rd place for another 5-1 in Heat 5 to wild acclaim from the Home fans. The Cheetahs hit back immediately though with Ruml and Batchelor making lightning starts to relegate Bowtell and a so far off the pace Starke to third and fourth leaving the scores at 20-16 after 6 Heats. With Heat 7 shared the next Heat looked pivotal with Morley coming in as reserve substitute for Andrews and the Cheetahs making a similar move bringing in Ruml as a reserve replacement for Stoneman.
Bowtell and Morley again delivered when it mattered, delivering some outstanding trackcraft and team riding skills racing inches apart and covering the desperate attempts of the more experienced Kyle Newman to pass at every bend and with Ruml this time making up the numbers at the back and the Home support in raptures, the 5-1 ensured a 28 points to 20 lead after 8 vibrant and exciting races.
Batchelor managed to win Heat 9 from the previously unbeaten Palm-Toft and Barker but heat 10 saw some more outstanding action as Paul Starke joined the party with an impressive home win backed by the increasingly iconic Bowtell for another 5-1 over Heeps and Ruml and after Thomas had been excluded for trying to anticipate the Start and hitting the taps with his helmet peak.
With a 12 point lead the Cheetahs hit back with a 4-2 of their own from Batchelor and Nicholls in Heat 11 and with Heat 12 shared the scores were 38 to 28 going in to the vital last 3 Heats where the Westcolour Gladiators knew that Nicholls and Batchelor would be formidable opponents in Heat 13 and most likely Heat 15, meaning there could be no room for complacency at all.
As the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going and Heat 13 saw Andersen make a flying start and with Nicholls and Batchelor making a momentary glance to see if the Red lights would go on for an unsatisfactory start, the alert Starke kept the throttle wound on to join Andersen for a significant 5-1 heat win with Batchelor pulling up dispirited before the end of the race. Jim McGregor; one of the most experienced Referees on the Circuit and who had an excellent meeting would have nothing of the protests, and if the analogy in football is that you play to the whistle, the same is true in Speedway in that you only stop when the red light goes on!
The Westcolour Gladiators then delivered what all prospective champions can do, turn the screw when the chips are down and delivered another 5-1 in Heat 14 with Morley making another fast start and Palm-Toft unselfishly following him home and protecting him to make the scores at that point 51-33 and with Barker beating his old nemesis Scott Nicholls in Heat 15 and Palm-Toft picking up the third place, a glorious 55-35 victory was sealed.
Barker with 12 points from 5 rides, Andersen with 11 from 4 rides and Palm-Toft with 10 points again did outstanding jobs for the home side, once again though Morley and Bowtell with 9 points and 8 points respectively out-performed their averages and most people’s expectations by some margin and Starke who produced a win and a paid win after a slow start and Andrews who never stopped trying also did their bit in a commanding Westcolour Gladiators performance.
The accumulation of vital League points continues next week for the Wescolour Gladiators with a Home tie against the Berwick Bandits and with momentum building the pride of The South West would welcome your support once again as you truly are “the 8th man” so please bring a friend, tell the neighbours, speedway heaven is at The Coliseum every Tuesday at 7…..Tickets on sale ONLINE here and CASH and Card Sales on the night.
Plymouth Gladiators = 55
1. Paul Starke (Guest) 0,0,3,2′ = 5+1
2. Alfie Bowtell 2,1,3,2′ = 8+1
3. Ben Barker 2′,2′,2,3,3 = 12+2
4. Michael Palm Toft 3,3,1′,2′,1 = 10+2
5. Hans Andersen 3,3,2,3 = 11
6. Ben Morley (Guest) 3,1,2′,0,3 = 9+1
7. Richard Andrews (Guest) Fx,F,0 = 0
Oxford Cheetahs = 35
1. Scott Nicholls 3,1,1,1,2 = 8
2. Kyle Newman 1,0,1 = 2
3. Jack Thomas 1,2,Tx,1′ = 4+1
4. Cameron Heeps 0,1,0,1 = 2
5. Troy Batchelor 2,2′,3,3,0 = 10+1
6. Dillon Ruml 1,3,0,1,2,0 = 7
7. Nathan Stoneman (Guest) 2,0,0,0 = 2
SGB Referee: Jim Mcgregor
Gates: Oxford win the toss and take gates 1&3 in heat 1
Heat 01: Nicholls, Bowtell, Newman, Starke 2-4
Heat 02: Morley, Stoneman, Ruml 3-3 (5-7)
Heat 03: Palm Toft, Barker, Thomas, Heeps 5-1 (10-8)
Heat 04: Andersen, Batchelor, Morley, Stoneman 4-2 (14-10)
Heat 05: Palm Toft, Barker, Nicholls, Newman 5-1 (19-11)
Heat 06: Ruml, Batchelor, Bowtell, Starke 1-5 (20-16)
Heat 07: Andersen, Thomas, Heeps, Andrews (F) 3-3 (23-19)
Heat 08: Bowtell, Morley, Newman, Ruml 5-1 (28-20)
Heat 09: Batchelor, Barker, Palm Toft, Stoneman 3-3 (31-23)
Heat 10: Starke, Bowtell, Ruml, Heeps 5-1 (36-24)
Heat 11: Batchelor, Andersen, Nicholls, Andrews 2-4 (38-28)
Heat 12: Barker, Ruml, Thomas, Morley 3-3 (41-31)
Heat 13: Andersen, Starke, Nicholls, Batchelor 5-1 (46-32)
Heat 14: Morley, Palm Toft, Heeps, Stoneman 5-1 (51-33)
Heat 15: Barker, Nicholls, Palm Toft, Ruml 4-2 (55-35)
Courtesy of Speedway Updates
Image Credit: Jon Sproad