Gladiators miss out on a point

The Plymouth Westcolour Gladiators produced another brave and committed performance and once again maintained their record of not scoring less than 40 points in any League Match this season in their Match at Oxford last night.

With Danny King guesting for the absent Edward Kennett and Hans Anderson unexpectedly available as his scheduled Danish Fixture had been called off late on Tuesday evening, the Westcolour Gladiators operated the Rider Replacement facility for Michael Palm-Toft who had suffered a reaction to his recent injury sustained riding for the Westcolour Gladiators at Poole a fortnight ago, when attempting a comeback for his Premier league Team on Monday night.

The Oxford Cheetahs were at full strength welcoming recent signings Aaron Summers and Luke Killeen but also operating the Rider Replacement facility for their absent recent signing Paul Starke, who is suffering from hand injuries that are exacerbated by his return from serious wrist injuries sustained a few years ago.

The Westcolour Gladiators were backed by a large and vociferous support on their first visit to the recently reopened Sandy Lane Track in Cowley in front of an exceptionally large Crowd by Championship standards and further evidence of the excellent work done by Jamie Courtney and the new Oxford promotion.

The Westcolour Gladiators roared in to an early lead with Ben Barker, himself on the return trail after injury stunning the Home Crowd with an excellent win in Heat 1 and with Alfie Bowtell getting the better of former Gladiator Dylan Ruml the opening heat saw a 4-2 success for the Gladiators. Cameron Heaps who on his best form is a solid Championship Heat Leader reeled in early leader Ben Morley to win the Reserve race for the Cheetahs but with Harry McGurk coming home in third place ahead  of Killeen whose machine barely left the Start Line in a re-run Heat, after he had fallen and perhaps been fortunate to hear the “All 4 back” announcement in the initial attempt to start the race.

Danny King won heat 3 in fine style for another drawn Heat before Troy Batchlor won Heat 4 for the Cheetahs with Hans Anderson and Ben Morley filling the minor places. Barker scored his second win of the night in Heat 5 with Bowtell unable to fend off Summers and Heeps despite a valiant effort and The Cheetahs took the lead for the first time in Heat 6 with Scott Nicholls taking advantage of a slip by Hans Anderson who had led out of the first bend to race in to the lead to be followed by Ruml with Anderson doing well to stay on his bike but unable to split the Cheetahs pairing. After 6 races a narrow 19 point to 17 point lead for the Home side reflected the closeness of the Racing on a Track that was increasingly producing some nice dirt lines and passing opportunities.

Danny King touched the tapes in Heat 7 forcing him to go off a 15 metre penalty that he was unable to make up but with Anderson splitting the very impressive Troy Batchelor and a back to form Heeps the damage was limited to a 4-2 Heat loss. Heeps emphasised that this was one of his best performances of a disappointing season by roaring away to win Heat 8, Bowtell and Morley managed to fend off Ruml for almost all of the 4 laps before the American found some extra grip off the final turn to pip Morley on the line for another 4-2 to the Home side to give them a 6 point lead after 8 races.

Aaron Summers who has been one of the most consistent Heat Leaders in Championship Speedway for many seasons and who has made a belated return to the Sport after a short retirement showed all of his old class and pedigree in thwarting the Westcolour Gladiators  tactical substitute gambit of using Ben Barker in Heat 9 in a pairing with Danny King in a shared Heat 9 before a wonderful Heat 10 delivered a 5-1 for the Home side with Ruml leading and being chased by King and Nicholls. King appeared to have ridden a superb final bend going in to the final lap with a chance to dive inside the American but a split second loss of momentum by King in executing the move, saw Nicholls superbly take the wide line to roar around King to join Ruml for a 5-1 that bought a tumultuous reaction from the Home supporters and appreciation of Nicholls enduring trackcraft and prowess.

With a 10 point lead the Cheetahs consolidated their advantage when Batchelor and Heeps followed home the very impressive Barker in Heat 11 and Summers again roared away to win Heat 12 in an increasingly impressive personal display. The Home side increased their lead to 12 points in Heat 13 with a titanic struggle between Nicholls, Barker and Batchelor finishing in that order. It meant that the Gladiators required 9 points from the final 2 races to secure a seemingly impossible Losing Bonus point and 7 points to maintain their record as the only side who have scored at least 40 points in every League Fixture so far.

Alfie Bowtell and Ben Morley delivered a valiant if unexpected 5-1 in Heat 14 leading home the previously very impressive Heeps and Summers to earn a well deserved reaction from Team Manager Garry May who was acutely aware of the significance of the late fight back. It meant that a 4-2 Heat victory for the Westcolour Gladiators would guarantee a losing Bonus Point against all the Odds.

The race delivered another titanic struggle with King and Nicholls swapping the lead for 2 laps with Batchelor closing in before the imperious Nicholls took control on the third lap with King gallantly holding off Batchelor to ensure the 2 points sw the Gladiators again reach the 40 point mark.

A valiant effort from the Westcolour Gladiators again who lost nothing in defeat and gained massive respect from the large Crowd on a night when Speedway was definitely the winner.

Barker led the way with a superb 12 points, King was great value for his 8 points, Ben Morley chipped in with an excellent 7 points (and 3 bonus points) from his 6 rides and Bowtell was never far away with a very solid 6 point return, marched by Hans Anderson who looked a little under-powered on occasions and Harry McGurk continued his long term speedway development by picking up a point in the shared reserves race.

The Cheetahs were led by Nicholls with 13 points about whom few superlatives remain as he continues to defy his age with some outstanding trackcraft, Batchelor, Heeps, Summers and Ruml had some of their best nights of the season and the Westcolour Gladiators may consider themselves a little unfortunate to have met some of the Leagues more mercurial talents on what was for them a “going night”.

The defeat leaves the Westcolour Gladiators still holding a strong 4th place in the Table, the top 6 qualify for the Play Offs and the Westcolour Gladiators have 3 vital Home League matches left and 2 Away Matches at Berwick and Edinburgh on their Northern Tour in August.

The Westcolour Gladiators and all Championship Teams now halt League action for a few weeks to start the inaugural Summer Cup which sees 3 Regional Groups and the Winners racing in a 3 Team Tournament Final at Sheffield later in the Season. It’s a Competition that the uber-consistent Westcolour Gladiators aim to WIN and they will need to top a tough looking Group against Poole, Oxford and Birmingham to do so.

The Next Fixture is the Home Summer Cup Match v Birmingham Brummies NEXT TUESDAY and after a couple of cancelled Championship Fixtures at Home and a glut of superb Away performances the Plymouth Westcolour Gladiators Management is making a  “call to Arms” to ask ALL Gladiators and South West based Supporters to come along and cheer the Team to victory and to back them on a terrific season so far.

TICKETS are AVAILABLE ONLINE now and can also be purchased by Cash or Card on the night and remember ALL Under 16′ GO FREE and we still have space for any ORGANISED GROUPS who wish to Attend and All Under 16’s are welcome to take part in the hugely popular Interval Running Race.

Ticket Information is here

Full Details of the UNDER 16 GO FREE and Organised Group Visits can be found here

We’ll have a Review of the Home NDL Match between the SWTR Centurions and Mildenhall last Tuesday on the website later today and a PREVIEW of NEXT TUESDAY’S Summer Cup Championship Westcolour Gladiators Match next MONDAY with hopefully some positive news about Michael’s return and some positive updates about Edward and Dan’s longer term progress from serious injuries.

Don’t forget Tuesday Night is Speedway Heaven in Devons Ocean City so encourage all your friends to come along and support your Plymouth Westcolour Gladiators 

Oxford Cheetahs = 50

1. Scott Nicholls – 2, 3, 2′, 3, 3 = 13+1

2. Dillon Ruml – 0, 2, 2′, 1, 3 = 8+1

3. Paul Starke R/R – (DR – 2, CH – 2, LK – F, AS – 3 = 7)

4. Aaron Summers – 1′, 1′, 3, 3, 0 = 8+2

5. Troy Batchelor – 3, 3, 2, 1, 1 = 10

6. Cameron Heeps – 3, 2, 1, 3, 1′, 0, 1 = 11+1

7. Luke Killeen – R, Fx, F = 0

Plymouth Gladiators = 40

1. Ben Barker – 3, 3, 1′, 3, 2, 0 = 12+1

2. Alfie Bowtell – 1, 0, 2, 0, 3 = 6

3. Danny King (G) – 3, 0, 1, 2, 2  = 8

4. Michael Palm Toft R/R – (HM – 0, HA – 2, HM – 0, AB – 3 = 5)

5. Hans Andersen – 2, 0, 2, 2, 0 = 6

6. Ben Morley – 2, 1′, 1, 0, 1′, 2′ = 7+3

7. Harry McGurk – 1′, 0, 0 = 1+1

Heat Results

Heat 01: Barker, Nicholls, Bowtell, Ruml 2-4 58.06

Heat 02: Heeps, Morley, McGurk, Killeen (R) 3-3 (5-7) 59.90

Heat 03: King, Ruml, Summers, McGurk 3-3 (8-10) 58.57

Heat 04: Batchelor, Andersen, Morley, Killeen (Fx) 3-3 (11-13) 59.00

Heat 05: Barker, Heeps, Summers, Bowtell 3-3 (14-16) 59.38

Heat 06: Nicholls, Ruml, Morley, Andersen 5-1 (19-17) 58.91

Heat 07: Batchelor, Andersen, Heeps, King 4-2 (23-19) 58.97

Heat 08: Heeps, Bowtell, Ruml, Morley 4-2 (27-21) 60.58

Heat 09: Summers, Andersen, Barker, Killeen (F) 3-3 (30-24) 59.25

Heat 10: Ruml, Nicholls, King, McGurk 5-1 (35-25) 59.89

Heat 11: Barker, Batchelor, Heeps, Bowtell 3-3 (38-28) 60.18

Heat 13: Nicholls, Barker, Batchelor, Andersen 4-2 (45-33) 59.94

Heat 14: Bowtell, Morley, Heeps, Summers 1-5 (46-38) 60.94

Heat 15: Nicholls, King, Batchelor, Barker 4-2 (50-40) 60.00

Courtesy of Speedway Updates

Image Credit: Jon Sproad