The Plymouth Westcolour Gladiators suffered an excruciating and perhaps unfortunate 2 point defeat in the Second City last night going down to the Birmingham Brummies in a controversial last Heat decider.
A losing bonus point for losing by less than 6 points was the very least the Westcolour Gladiators deserved to maintain their outstanding consistency away from home and they are indeed the only Team in the championship who have scored above 40 points in each of their Away Matches so far, which allied to their unbeaten Home record bodes exceptionally well for the Play Offs at the end of the season which are based on aggregate Home and Away Scores.
With Scott Nicholls again replacing the injured Edward Kennett and Devonian Connor Coles coming in for the injured Harry McGurk, and still without the injured Dan Gilkes, the Westcolour Gladiators will rue how close they may have gone to a totally unbeaten record had the most in-form reserve in the League (Gilkes) not have been seriously injured at Scunthorpe earlier in the season. However, this is not a Team that will wallow in such thoughts for long and they again took the cards that fate has dealt them and delivered another passionate and very impressive performance.
The Brummies struck early with successive 4-2 Heat advantages in the opening 2 Heats with Bowtell perhaps a little unfortunate to be excluded in the opening heat after a tight first bend resulted in wheel to wheel action on the back straight. Ben Barker, who was outstanding all night and Michael Palm Toft hit back with a 4-2 of their own in the third race and with the 4th race shared 3-3 the score was 13-11 in favour of the Home side after 4 races.
Massive credit should go too to the Birmingham Management who on an intensely hot day had pumped some 20,000 gallons on to the Track and whilst it’s impossible to maintain perfect Racing conditions in such weather, it was only much later in the Meeting that the Track became slicker despite with valiant efforts to limit the dust, also appreciated by all.
The Brummies inched further ahead with 4-2 race advantages in two of the next three heats, the most significant of which was Stefan Neilsen pushing home for almost a lao in heat 6 after his chain broke after Connor Coles had retired and michael Palm-Toft suffering an engine failure in Heat 7. The significance of the effort by Neilsen would only really manifest itself later on.
The Brummies looked to have taken a stranglehold on proceedings with a 5-1 heat advantage in Heat 8 courtesy of Neilsen and James Shanes to stretch their lead to 10 points and at this stage many may have written off a lesser Team without the undoubted spirit and togetherness that Garry May has fostered in the Westcolour Gladiators. Scott Nicholls replaced Ben Morley as a tactical substitute in Heat 9 (a Tactical Substitute is allowed once per meeting if a Team is 6 or more points behind provided they are not in “protected heats”) and shared a 5-1 heat advantage with Hans Andersen and with the imperious Ben Barker and Palm-Toft repeating the feat in Heat 10 it was “game on” once again with the Westcolour Gladiators just 2 points behind with 5 races remaining and momentum very much in their favour.
Josh Pickering and Shanes delivered a prompt retort however for the Brummies in Heat 11 to stretch the gap to 4 points before Ben Barker and Ben Morley delivered a big 5-1 in Heat 12 to restore parity to the scoreline at 36 points each for the first time since the Meeting started.
A 4-2 heat advantage to the Brummies courtesy of an outstanding ride from Josh Pickering to win the race and a somewhat unfortunate engine failure for Scott Nicholls which gifted Ricky Wells a third place again suggested that the Westcolour Gladiators were right out of luck at a key time. Palm-Toft took his now customary Heat 14 win which is precisely why he is tactically placed in the Number 4 slot in the Team; meaning that the Westcolour Gladiators needed a 4-2 heat advantage to draw the Meeting or a 5-1 to win but already assured of a losing bonus point provided they had a finisher in the race.
There was massive tension as Pickering and Neilsen lined up for the Home side with Barker and Andersen the selected Westcolour Gladiators pairing after superb performance from both. Andersen made a good start but was passed by the impressive Pickering but with Stefan Neilsen who fell with no Plymouth rider seemingly involved bringing on the Red stop lights it came as a big shock when Andersens exclusion light came on and despite protestations the exclusion left Barker alone to face the Brummies and no chance of a match win.
Barker duly romped home to leave the scoreline 46-44 to the Home side and to personally complete an outstanding 14 point return from 5 rides, he was superbly backed by Andersen with 10 points from 4 completed rides prior to his exclusion in Heat 15 and 9 points from 4 completed rides for Scott nicholls prior to his engine failure in Heat 13.
Pickering was a superb choice of Guest for the Brummies and Stefan Neilsen with 8 points and his 250 yards running with the bike for a crucial point ultimately decided the Match outcome.
FIXTURE UPDATE – The rearranged return fixture v Birmingham originally cancelled on Tuesday June 7th has now been rearranged for TUESDAY 2nd August and the Club will be contacting everyone who purchased ONLINE Tickets for the original Fixture on FRIDAY 17th July to outline Ticket usage options.
The WESTCOLOUR GLADIATORS resume action next Tuesday 21st June against the NEWCASTLE DIAMONDS and Tickets including ALL Under 16’s go FREE are available via the Club website. We’ll have a Match Preview on Monday morning.
Birmingham Brummies = 46
1. Ricky Wells (G) – 1, 2, 1, 1 = 5
2. Stefan Nielsen – 3, 1′, 3, 0, 1′ = 8+2
3. Justin Sedgmen – 0, 3, 0, 1 = 4
4. Ashley Morris – 2, 1, 1, 2 = 6
5. Josh Pickering (G) – 2, 3, 3, 3, 2 = 13
6. James Shanes – 3, 1, 2′, 1, 1′ = 8+2
7. James Pearson – 1, 1′, 0 = 2+1
Plymouth Gladiators = 44
1. Scott Nicholls (G) – 2, 2, 3, 2, R = 9
2. Alfie Bowtell – Ex, 0, 1, 0 = 1
3. Ben Barker – 3, 2, 3, 3, 3 = 14
4. Michael Palm Toft – 1, R, 2′, 3 = 6+1
5. Hans Andersen – 3, 3, 2′, 2, Ex = 10+1
6. Ben Morley – 2, Fx, 0, 2′ = 4+1
7. Connor Coles (G) – 0, R, 0 = 0
Heat 01: Nielsen, Nicholls, Wells, Bowtell (Ex) 4-2 60.09
Heat 02: Shanes, Morley, Pearson, Coles 4-2 (8-4) 60.78
Heat 03: Barker, Morris, Palm Toft, Sedgmen 2-4 (10-8) 60.00
Heat 04: Andersen, Pickering, Pearson, Morley (Fx) 3-3 (13-11) 59.88
Heat 05: Sedgmen, Nicholls, Morris, Bowtell 4-2 (17-13) 59.47
Heat 06: Andersen, Wells, Nielsen, Coles (R) 3-3 (20-16) 60.94
Heat 07: Pickering, Barker, Shanes, Palm Toft (R) 4-2 (24-18) 59.97
Heat 08: Nielsen, Shanes, Bowtell, Morley 5-1 (29-19) 61.12
Heat 09: Nicholls, Andersen, Morris, Sedgmen 1-5 (30-24) 60.78
Heat 10: Barker, Palm Toft, Wells, Nielsen 1-5 (31-29) 60.82
Heat 11: Pickering, Nicholls, Shanes, Bowtell 4-2 (35-31) 61.03
Heat 12: Barker, Morley, Sedgmen, Pearson 1-5 (36-36) 61.94
Heat 13: Pickering, Andersen, Wells, Nicholls (R) 4-2 (40-38) 59.97
Heat 14: Palm Toft, Morris, Shanes, Coles 3-3 (43-41) 60.59
Heat 15: Barker, Pickering, Nielsen, Andersen (Fx) 3-3 (46-44) 60.72
Courtesy of Speedway Updates
Image credit: Jon Sproad