Tough night for The Gladiators

The Plymouth Westcolour Gladiators outstanding home run came to an end last night at The Coliseum in a Jubilee League Southern Section tie against the Poole Pirates. 

Having beaten Birmingham comprehensively at The Coliseum last week before a defeat at Perry Barr the following evening; the Westcolour Gladiators would have been hoping for another famous home victory against the Pirates.

Having faced injury issues and some debatable decisions in the past few weeks and months and despite a fierce determination that has repeatedly defied all the odds and expectations, on this occasion the injury ravaged Westcolour Gladiators had to finally bow to a touch of reality and accept the inevitable. 

The fact that the defeat is in a competition that is seen as a bit of a fixture filler, in soccer terms the equivalent of the League Cup); won’t diminish the hurt that this redoubtable Team of battle and injury ravaged fighters will feel this morning, but it will allow give them time to reflect and hopefully heal and recuperate before the more important Championship League Matches return in August. 

The Meeting was also affected inevitably by the intense heat that the country has endured in the past few weeks and indeed one of the driest Spring and Summer periods on record, with the top bend (Flyover + River Plym end) developing a rut that made racing more difficult and which meant that the usual excellent and smooth surface that the Home Supporters have become used to in recent seasons was not in evidence. 

It is a measure of the transparency and supporter / customer relationship skills that the Promotion has developed in recent years, that Promoter Mark Phillips made a full and thorough apology to all of the fans in attendance, promising to “rip the track up” and repair it and ensure that it is back in tip top condition for next week.

It is perhaps worth outlining the difficulties the intense hot weather has caused the Promotion in the past few weeks. The base of the track and much of the shale mixture includes clay and as any gardener knows, when it is hot clay retracts and cracks and when it is too wet it expands and becomes an unworkable  glue. 

The bend in question is also above the River Plym that passes directly behind the Track and is actually below the water table, and is generally flooded in Autumn and Winter and early Spring and there are wells in the infield of the Track and behind the Banking on the 3rd Turn to assist is taking away as much water as possible. 

This means that the Clay base has retracted and cracked but that due to the high natural water table the Track will have to be bladed by a motorway blade and tyre packed for several days before it is top dressed and tyre packed again with the correct aggregate mixture. So a very busy week ahead for the wonderful track staff and Mark.

The Westcolour Gladiators made a fine start to the Meeting with a 5-1 Heat advantage in the opening heat, before the Pirates unexpectedly hit back with a 5-1 of their own in Heat 2, their first such reserve heat advantage away this season and with the usually excellent Ben Morley clearly under the weather after a few recent spills, the writing was on the wall quite early for the Home side. 

An unfair looking exclusion for guest Lewis Kerr in Heat 3 when he passed Danny King up the inside on Bend 1 for what would have been a 5-1 heat advantage, meant that the resultant re-run 4-2 to the Pirates with King delivering the first of 4 unbeaten rides on the night, meant that the Pirates would take an early lead that they would never fully relinquish.

An excellent win for guest Richie Worrall over long term nemesis Richard Lawson in Heat 4 with Morley getting the better of Nathan Ablitt, briefly restored parity but Heat advantages in Heats 5 and 7 sandwiched a shared Heat 6 giving the Pirates a 6 point lead after 7 races. 

Heat 8 has invariably seen Alfie Bowtell and Ben Morley combine for a 5-1 for the Westcolour Gladiators this season, but with Drew Kemp winning Heat 8 and with Ben Cook in third the Pirates increased their advantage. With Kemp having one of his best away performances of the season and Ablitt chipping in with points, the Pirates reserve input was proving vital, with Morley off colour and McGurk off the pace for the Home Team.

The next 4 heats saw the Pirates do what all champions can do, as they turned the screw by extending the margin to 42 points to 30 after 12 Heats. 

The Westcolour Gladiators have fought out of tough situations magnificently all season so needing to win the remaining heats all by a 5-1 margin to tie the Match, hope would have sprung eternal in possibly only the most positive and avid Gladiators fan.

Sadly a 5-1 Heat win for Steve Worrall and Richard Lawson in Heat 13 sealed the inevitable, and despite the always competitive Lewis Kerr winning Heat 14 and joining Richie Worrall for a 5-1 over Lawson and his brother Steve Worrall in Heat 15, which Richie clearly enjoyed, the final scoreline of 39 to 51 points in the favour of The Pirates drew no real complaints from the Home Supporters, happy to accept defeat with good grace; showing that at The Coliseum; sportsmanship and speedway is the winner.

Richie Worrall and Lewis Kerr as guests were good value for their respective 11 and 9 point returns and were backed up by Ben Barker with 9 points, Alfie Bowtell with 8 points and with Ben Morley adding 2 points despite his obvious discomfort.

With the closing Jubilee League fixtures to be staged in the coming weeks starting with an attractive looking tie v Oxford next Tuesday, the Westcolour Gladiators will be looking to prepare and recuperate in time for the key home and away Championship Fixtures in August with Birmingham, Redcar and Glasgow due to visit The Coliseum and trips to Edinburgh and Berwick to face. 

The Westcolour Gladiators are still in a very strong position to make the Playoffs and will hope to have Dan Gilkes, Michael Palm-Toft and Hans Andersen back in the saddle during August and to hear more positive news about the upcoming Specialists appointments and scans Edward Kennett has regarding his serious arm and nerve injuries.

Plymouth Gladiators = 39

1. Ben Barker – 2’, 3, 2, 2, 0 = 9+1

2. Alfie Bowtell – 3, 2, 0, 2, 1’ = 8+1

3. Lewis Kerr (G) – X, 2, 0, 2, 3, 2’ = 9+1

4. R/R for Hans Andersen (AB – 2, BM – F/X, RW – 2,  LK – 3) = 7

5. Richie Worrall (G) – 3, 1, 2, 1’, 1, 3 = 11+1

6. Harry McGurk – 0, 0, 0 = 0

7. Ben Morley – 1, 1, F/X, 0, 0 = 2

Poole Pirates = 51

1. Steve Worrall – X, 1, 3, 3, 0 = 7

2. Drew Kemp – 1, 3, 3, 0 = 7

3. Danny King – 3, 3, 3, 3 = 12 MAXIMUM

4. Zach Cook – 1, 2’, 0, 2 = 5+1

5. Richard Lawson – 2, 2, 3, 2’, 1 = 10+1

6. Ben Cook – 3, 1’, 1, 1, 1 = 7+1

7. Nathan Ablitt – 2’, 0, 1’ = 3+2

Heat Results

Heat 01 Re-Run x2: Bowtell, Barker, Kemp, S. Worrall (X) 5-1, 51.20

Heat 02 Re-Run: B. Cook, Ablitt, Morley, McGurk 1-5, 6-6, 51.75

Heat 03 Re-Run: King, Bowtell, Z. Cook, Kerr (X) 2-4, 8-10, 51.66

Heat 04 Re-Run: R. Worrall, Lawson, Morley, Ablitt 4-2, 12-12, 51.78

Heat 05 Re-Run: Kemp, Kerr, S. Worrall, Morley (F/X) 2-4, 14-16, 52.72

Heat 06: Barker, Lawson, B. Cook, Bowtell 3-3, 17-19, 52.18

Heat 07: King, Z. Cook, R. Worrall, McGurk 1-5, 18-24, 56.60

Heat 08: Kemp, Bowtell, B. Cook, Morley 2-4, 20-28, 52.00

Heat 09: Lawson, R. Worrall, B. Cook, Kerr 2-4, 22-32, 53.56

Heat 10: King, Barker, Bowtell, Z. Cook 3-3, 25-35, 52.34

Heat 11: S. Worrall, Barker, R. Worrall, Kemp 3-3, 28-38, 52.88

Heat 12 Re-Run: King, Kerr, B. Cook, McGurk 2-4, 30-42, 52.22

Heat 13 Re-Run: S. Worrall, Lawson, R. Worrall, Barker 1-5, 31-47, 52.56

Heat 14: Kerr, Z. Cook, Ablitt, Morley 3-3, 34-50, 53.13

Heat 15: R. Worrall, Kerr, Lawson, S. Worrall 5-1, 39-51, 52.90

Courtesy of Speedway Updates

Image Credit: Jon Sproad