Eagles sip to fourth Elite League defeat

Eastbourne Eagles slipped to their fourth Elite League defeat on home shale of the current campaign at Arlington stadium on Saturday night, but arguably this one proved the most heart rending yet as it came at the hands of local rivals, the Lakeside Hammers and of course was masterminded by former Eagles team boss, Jon Cook.

The Purfleet club seized both points on offer, courtesy of a 49-43 scoreline, to mirror previous Arlington travelling successes in 2007 enjoyed by Coventry (twice) and Peterborough but in truth the margin could well have been greater had the Hammers not been denied potentially bolt on 5-1's in heats 2 and 8 when Ricky Kling and then Billy Janniro both ground to a halt with engine problems.

With Coventry having triumphed twice in Sussex earlier in the year, Cook was swift to home in on the Bees connection as he examined his own team strengths ahead of the clash. Billy Janniro, who served Eagles so well with a paid 17-point return against Swindon was called up as a guest to replace the injured Joonas Kylmakorpi while Rory Schlein proved another last minute replacement when it became apparent that Krzysztof Kasprzak would also miss the encounter, reportedly suffering the effects of concussion following a recent crash in Poland.

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In addition former Eastbourne fan favourite Adam Shields proved good value for the Hammers with a paid 14-point tally, however Lakeside arguably need look no further than the impressive Kling for their match winner. The Swede, having been robbed of a victory in his opening ride by an engine failure proceeded to share in two Hammers 5-1's, the first in race four with Shields which restored the visitors early 4-point advantage and then in race ten, this time with Schlein, significantly ahead of Edward Kennett and Lewis Bridger which doubled the Lakeside lead to 8-points, 34-26 at that stage.

In between times he also took the honours in heat eight, again at the expense of Bridger, an effort which safeguarded the visitor's four-point margin.

In contrast, Davey Watt again proved a tower of strength for the Sussex, totalling 18-points (including a tactical ride) from his six outings. Eagles stand in Captain was headed just twice to the chequered flag, however both were to prove telling moments, the first in race nine seeing him lose out to Shields and then three heats later when another fellow Australian, Schlein thwarted Eastbourne efforts to get back on terms, the Coventry rider defeating the double point chasing Watt in race 12.

Elsewhere, Kennett, a popular winner ahead of Shields in the sixth, and Morten Risager, ahead of Schlein in the seventh provided a race win apiece but sadly it was never going to be sufficient for Eagles to contain the Hammers heavy hitters over the full course of the fifteen races.

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Though they would undoubtedly have been buoyed by another fine showing by Nicki Pedersen in the Latvian Grand Prix and a second successive runners up spot (both behind Swindon's Leigh Adams) that moves him ever closer to the 2007 World title, the Arlington faithful would undoubtedly have preferred that the main Dane, a 15-point maximum scorer in the last encounter between the sides, could have played a role this time against the Hammers.

Additionally, the points potency anticipated from Russian Champion Denis Gizatullin might also have made a huge difference had he been available for the Eagles.

However, each of the above examples can only be bracketed in the ifs, buts and maybe's category and judging purely on the evidence of the night nobody can deny that Lakeside were the better of the two teams and equally nobody can claim that they weren't worthy and deserving winners.

The night had seemingly started so brightly for the Eagles and the first race saw Bridger streaking from the gate while Kennett disputed second place with Schlein and Janniro. The Hammers duo soon appeared to have got the measure of Kennett however and Schlein then forced his way past the leading Bridger.

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Further drama was just about to follow with Bridger lifting and crashing out of action on the third bend of lap two. With that referee Paul Carrington saw fit to award the result, the Hammers making the best possible start with a 5-1.

That was how the second race looked to be heading as well as Kling and Chris Mills gained an early lead at the expense of Cameron Woodward. Eagles were staring a possible 8-point deficit in the face but it was the Hammers and more particularly Kling's turn to suffer misfortune as his machine failed him on the first turn of the final lap gifting the host's a share of the spoils.

Going from a potential disadvantage, the Eagles then managed to square things in the next, Watt and Bridger storming from the traps to peg Leigh Lanham in third place while Schlein looked far removed from the rider who had been handed the first race win. The resultant 5-1 levelled the scores at 9-points apiece but the visitor's quickly re-established control as Shields and Kling scored a resounding 5-1 over Risager and Eagles guest reserve Hedley.

Watt was a comfortable winner of heat five as he took the chequered flag ahead of Janniro but with Lanham fending off Woodward's persistent challenge to anchor the 3-3, the 4-point difference remained in place, the visitors enjoying the thicker end of the current 17-13 scoreline.

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The Eagles pinned their hopes on the Kennett / Bridger connection to pull back the margin in the next but sadly that ambition soon bit the dust along with Bridger who suffered his second fall of the night, slamming into the air barrier as he exited turn two.

The race was rerun, with the Eagle having been excluded but although Kennett proved a popular winner ahead of Shields, with Mills riding unchallenged for the third place point and the 3-3, this ensured that the 4-point difference, now standing at 20-16 remained in place.

Indeed, this was to spark a succession of shared heats, the following three races being split. The first of these witnessed an impressive victory for Risager ahead of former Coventry team mate Schlein but with Lanham again outpacing Woodward, the Eagles remained unable to take a slice out of Hammers lead.

Kling then continued a notable night's work by taking heat eight at a canter ahead of Bridger and Hedley; however it could have been so much worse for the Eagles had Janniro not ground to a halt while holding a 5-1 with his partner, one that would have doubled the Lakeside advantage.

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Shields then struck a further blow for the Hammers, as he got the better of the man who effectively replaced him in the Eagles side, Davey Watt. Risager helped block the minor places ahead of Mills but nevertheless, the visitors still had that 4-point cushion in place, the scores now standing at 29-25.

Eastbourne fortunes might have been protected as Kennett and Bridger stepped out to contest heat 10 but as events panned out, they were dealt a severe jolt as Schlein and Kling left the tapes side by side and despite the best efforts particularly from Kennett, there was no way back for the Eagles pair and Lakeside duly doubled their advantage to 8-points, 34-26.

The gloom deepened as 8-points became ten, courtesy of a 4-2 to the Hammers, one that saw Shields get the better of Risager and Janniro heading home Woodward in race eleven.

With the scores now standing at 38-28, this allowed Watt to don the black and white helmet that signified a tactical ride and the chance to claim double points.

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However, the tactic wasn't destined to go quite according to the master plan as Schlein nipped sharply from the start to deny Watt the 6-points. Woodward did at least get the better of Kling for third place thus realising a 5-3 for the Eagles, one that reduced the Hammers lead to 8-points (41-33) once more.

With just three races left to run, time and opportunities were both now in short supply for the Sussex side and all remaining hope was seemingly snuffed out as Janniro and Shields posted an authoritative 5-1, Hammers fourth of the match, over Kennett and Risager, one that extended the visitors advantage to 12-points, 46-34 and effectively out of Eagles reach.

A mini revival followed, but sadly is was to prove, too little, too late. Had Eastbourne introduced a tactical substitute in the penultimate race and possibly claimed an 8-1, Lakeside still only needed to provide a finisher in each of the final two races to claim the win. In the event, no such tactic was employed as Watt and Woodward lined up at the tapes against Lanham and Mills. Though the Eastbourne pair duly roared away for the 5-1 it had a slightly hollow ring to it with the visitors already having been confirmed as victors.

A further 4-2 in the last as Watt breezed to his fourth victory of the evening further eroded the Hammers winning margin to that closing 6-point (49-43) margin. Watt gained revenge over both Schlein as well as Shields, who indeed was also headed to the flag by Risager.

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However it was Lakeside, their supporters and inevitably Jon Cook who were left cheering the loudest having engineered a rare Arlington victory for the Essex club.

Scorers :

Eagles : Davey Watt 18(6), Morten Risager 8+1(6), Edward Kennett (Guest for Nicki Pedersen) 6(4), Cameron Woodward 5+2(6), Lewis Bridger 4+1(5), Tom Hedley 2+2(3), Rider Replacement for David Norris '“ 43

Hammers : Adam Shields 13+1(6), Rory Schlein (Guest for Krzysztof Kasprzak) 13(6), Billy Janniro (Guest for Joonas Kylmakorpi) 8+1(5), Ricky Kling 7+2(5), Leigh Lanham 4+2(4), Chris Mills 4+1(4), Rider Replacement for Andreas Jonsson '“ 49

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