Eastbourne’s semi in the balance

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IT’S GOING to be a manic Monday for the Eastbourne Eagles as all their hopes and dreams for 2011 hang on the result of a single meeting, writes Paul Watson.

They go into the second leg of the semi-finals of the Elite League play-offs at Arlington Stadium on Monday (September 26) just one point adrift of Lakeside.

In the first leg at the Essex track, the Lifestyle Eagles made a dreadful start – following on from their disastrous last few heats at Arlington on Saturday.

After six races they were 23-13 down and heading out of the play-offs. A six point tactical ride from Lewis Bridger with Cam Woodward third stemmed the tide and provided the platform for the fight back.

In fact they were one point ahead at the start of the final heat but a 4-2 for Lakeside gave them the narrowest of advantages.

However, Eastbourne riders, management and fans will not be counting any chickens.

They know speedway can be hugely unpredictable and last Saturday the Eagles were dumped out of the KO Cup in one of the shocks of the season.

The wheels certainly came off big time in the closing stages of the second leg of the KO Cup semi-final against Poole at Arlington Saturday.

Poole brought a two-point lead from the first leg. Their team was patched up because of injuries and they gave a debut to Kevin Wolbert.

Surely it was a case of the Eagles just turning up and cruising through to the final. A 5-1 to the Sussex team in heat one cemented that view.

However, the Eagles never really got going on a track made difficult by showers during the day and through the meeting.

As team boss Trevor Geer noted, whenever the track conditions are not like the home team are used to or expect, a visiting team tends to prosper. And that’s what happened, especially over the closing stages as the Eagles took only five points from the last four races.

It was a pretty disastrous performance from the home team and the long faces in the pits at the end of the meeting told the story.

That put Poole through to the final - not the result Eagles’ fans had been dreaming about.

Whether it was the track or the riders taking their eyes of the game, we shall never know. The only hope is that the cup result will have provided a huge wake-up call for the team and that they will be on their guard and better prepared for the second leg of the play-offs.

There was, however, better news at the weekend.

Joonas Kylmakorpi retained his world long track title on Saturday and the night before Simon Gustafsson was crowned Swedish Under 21 champion.

Monday’s match at the Arlington Stadium begins at 7.30pm.