Eastbourne IT First Eagles slipped to their first National League defeat of the 2016 campaign on Friday evening as they were outgunned by a 53-37 margin by the Belle Vue Colts at the National Speedway stadium.
It proved something of a makeshift Eastbourne side that took to the track in Manchester, writes Kevin Ling.
No 1 Adam Ellis was unavailable, Ellis Perks on Premier League duty with Plymouth and the recently recruited Gary Cottham unable to make the trip due to work commitments, the trio being replaced by guests Rob Branford, Jack Parkinson Blackburn and Ryan MacDonald.
The Sussex sides plans to make their presence felt fell further into disarray as Georgie Wood broke down en-route to the circuit necessitating the Rider Replacement utility to be implemented in his absence.
However, the Colts also had their own issues on the personnel front as teen sensation Dan Bewley, star, 18-point maximum man and claimant of the first ever track record at the venue the previous week was also missing from the clash, riding for his Premier League side Edinburgh (ironically against Perks’ Plymouth) the same evening.
The Colts heatleader trio of Lee Payne, Rob Shuttleworth and Matt Williamson were largely dominant, Tom Woolley weighed in with a brace of heat wins and a useful 8-points and Joe Lawlor turned in a competent understudy role for Bewley.
Between them they restricted the visitors to just two heat wins out of the 15 races, Luke Harris and Charley Powell taking a 5-1 in heat two and then Parkinson Blackburn and Harris sharing a 4-2 in the ninth.
This left very few opportunities for the Eagles to rein in their hosts as they gradually edged further ahead.
Williamson took the first win of the night ahead of Branford in the first, securing an opening 4-2 for the Colts and in spite of maximum points to the Eastbourne reserve duo in race two, seeing their team lead momentarily, it was the home side who regained the offensive as Woolley and Shuttleworth returned the favour in heat three, the latter having got the better of a lively duel with Parkinson Blackburn to put the Manchester youngsters 10-8 to the good.
A further pair of 4-2s in four and five eased the Colts further ahead to 18-12, the first of these seeing Jake Knight, Eagles top scorer over the evening with a round dozen, come back from a 15 metre penalty to follow Payne home, the second seeing Shuttleworth get the better of Branford after another intensive four laps.
Heats six and seven remained shared, Williamson and Payne respectively taking the chequered flag but with Knight and Harris, then Parkinson Blackburn and Powell filling the minor places in each instance.
The Colts stretched the margin further to double figures, 32-22 following heat nine Lawlor taking and impressive win ahead of Harris in the eighth, a race that witnessed a worrying three man tumble and disqualification for Powell, Colts reserve Andy Mellish unfortunately having to withdraw from proceedings suffering painful bruising to his rear quarter.
With Shuttleworth getting the better of Knight on the run in for yet another 4-2 in the next, this put the 10-point margin in place.
A similar contest saw Williamson deny Knight over the final few yards in heat ten but with Parkinson Blackburn following in third this at least ensured that no further daylight would appear between the sides.
Payne continued his winning ways with a success over Branford in the eleventh, Powell suffering another fall on the final bend but by that time, Lawlor had third place wrapped up for Colts sixth 4-2 of proceedings.
The Eagles hit back as Parkinson Blackburn secured a timely win, exploiting a mid-race error by Shuttleworth that spelled his first defeat of the evening by an opponent.
With Harris continuing an impressive performance, heading home Lawlor, the Sussex pair responded with a 4-2 of their own to put the 10-point disparity back in place at 41-31.
A breathtaking heat 13 saw Branford, then Williamson, then Knight and finally Payne, the eventual winner all take the lead. With the Eastbourne duo managing to fend off the ever chasing Williamson, his first points dropped on the night, this at least kept the Eagles in touch with their hosts in the hopes for a bonus point, however such aspiration melted away in the penultimate race as Woolley nipped sharply from the start, followed closely by Lawlor to get the better of Harris and Powell, earning Belle Vue’s second 5-1 of the match, one that put them 49-35 to the good and out of sight with regards to any points reward for the visitors.
Payne duly completed a fine 15-point maximum in the last though Knight’s efforts kept him honest in the early part. With Shuttleworth claiming a second success over Branford for the third place point following another fine contest this closed the show for the Colts, just as they had started it, the final 4-2 realising a 53-37 scoreline.
Colts : Lee Payne 15(5), Rob Shuttleworth 11+1(5), Matt Williamson 9(4), Tom Woolley 8(4), Joe Lawlor 7+1(6), David Holt 2(4), Andy Mellish 1(2). - 53
Eagles : Rider Replacement for Jake Knight 12(6), Luke Harris 7+2(6), Jack Parkinson Blackburn (Guest for Ellis Perks) 7+1(4), Rob Branford (Guest for Adam Ellis) 7+1(5), Charley Powell 4+1(6), Ryan MacDonald (Guest for Gary Cottham) 0(3), Rider Replacement for Georgie Wood. - 37
National League points: Belle Vue 3 Eastbourne 0
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