FANS of Eastbourne Eagles face a nervous couple of weeks as the club’s bid to reach the end-of-season play-offs reaches a crucial stage.
Clubs are coming towards the end of their league fixtures with five, or six, teams still in with a shout of making the top-four shoot out at the end of September. Right from the off, the Lifestyle Eagles have been at, or near, the top of the pile.
They have slipped to fourth in the last week but have matches in hand. Top spot is probably beyond them but they have a realistic chance of taking second place in the “regular” season.
Speedway at Arlington Stadium this week is on Sunday afternoon (3.30pm start) against the Swindon Robins.
The Wiltshire club have struggled this season and the match, on paper, at least, should be a routine day at the office for the Eagles.
Simon Gustafsson is away at the world U21 final and Lukas Dryml has a broken leg.
The Eagles draft Danny King into the team in place of Dryml and will use rider replacement to cover for Gustafsson with Joonas Kylmakorpi, King, Cam Woodward and Timo Lahti eligible to take his programmed rides.
Eastbourne have thought long and hard about finding a permanent replacement through to the end of the season for Dryml. It is fair to say the search has stretched right across Europe with riders in Poland, Denmark and Germany all being weighed up.
There have been stumbling blocks all round and at the moment the intention is to cover Dryml’s rides with the rider replacement facility. Some of the issues have been:
n Riders unable to commit to the Eastbourne fixture list because of prior bookings;
n Riders averages being low so they would slot in at reserve; meaning the Eagles would lose the advantage of having Woodward at reserve;
n Finding a rider who is likely to score more points than rider replacement brings in.
It’s a balancing act for the Eagles and they now seem content to go into battle with a six-man team, especially now that Lahti is scoring points and winning races. The top four at the moment is: Poole, Lakeside, King’s Lynn and Eastbourne. Poole are almost nailed on to be in the play-offs. Lakeside’s last league match is due tonight meaning, at best, that they can finish on 47 points. The Norfolk side has four more matches and the Eagles six.
Outside the top four, Belle Vue have blown it and the only team who can make a challenge would seem to be Coventry. However, they are in some turmoil following Edward Kennett’s suspension for six months for using an illegal silencer in a meeting at Lakeside.
Some time ago the Eagles management set the riders a simple target: gain three points from each remaining home meeting and average a point away from home. So far, that target has been attained. There can, of course be no room for complacency but they at the moment are looking good for a title tilt come the autumn.
There was more good news for the club on Saturday when Bjarne Pedersen qualified for next year’s Grand Prix series. Pedersen, on loan from Poole, has proved to be a splendid No 1, both leading from the front on track are also being a real force for the good in the pits.
Co-promoter Mike Bellerby said: “Bjarne’s success is fantastic news and we send him our congratulations. We will make sure we give him a special welcome before the start of Sunday’s meeting against Swindon.
“He has been a real inspiration this year as our No.1 rider and helps give everyone great confidence. Bjarne has proved to be a great team man and I believe the Lifestyle Eagles can now press on and challenge for league and cup honours.”