IT really was a case of what might have been at Arlington Stadium on Saturday night.
The unbeaten Poole Pirates rolled into town but there was an optimistic mood in the Eagles camp that they could upset the Dorset applecart.
The home team were without Joonas Kylmakorpi and Simon Gustafsson and drafted in Jason Doyle to stand in for Gustafsson and used rider replacement for Kylmakorpi – not auspicious, you might think.
But team boss Trevor Geer said the Eagles had been a thorn in the Pirates’ side in the past and expected more of the same this time around.
A Poole 5-1 in heat one threatened a deluge (that was to come later) but the scoreline was reversed in the next heat by Timo Lahti and Denis Gizatullin.
That set up an intriguing struggle with the Eagles nosing ahead. Their lead would have been more had Cam Woodward not fallen when well placed, through machine problems. Lukas Dryml also fell when the Eagles were on a 5-1.
Dryml steamed down the back straight into second place but could not hold the bike on the third turn and spun round 180 degrees. The race was stopped and he was excluded from the re-run.
Dryml is struggling at the moment and is a shadow of the rider who this time last year was dominating proceedings at Arlington.
The home team could have been eight up but instead carried a narrow lead which Poole turned round as the closing stages began.
Lewis Bridger rode a brilliant heat 10 when he blasted around Chris Holder to hit the front and take the chequered flag. However, Holder gained quick revenge in heat 11 with a masterful piece of riding that stopped Bridger getting the line he wanted on the first turn and at the same allowed his team-mate Ricky Kling to run round the outside and give Poole a 5-1 and the lead.
Heat 12 followed as a 3-3 but that was it as the rain came down and the track dangerous. Referee Dan Holt called off the last three races but the result stands.
So near, so far for the Eagles but the Pirates marched on.
There’s now no speedway at Arlington until June 25, when Lakeside are the visitors in a match to be screened by Sky Sports. The gap is caused by world championship events and shows what a blight they have on the Eastbourne fixture list – here we are nearing midsummer and the bikes will be silent at Arlington for three successive Saturdays.