Visit of Coventry always ensures match is thriller

COVENTRY’s visits to Arlington very rarely disappoint. Saturday’s Elite League thriller was no exception as fortunes ebbed and flowed before Eastbourne ran out winners but Coventry securing a losing bonus point.

Eastbourne managed to get the match on despite plenty of rain during the days leading up to the meeting.

The forecast for the day itself was poor but in the end there was little rain, giving track staff every chance of getting the meeting on.

Of course, they grabbed it. The surface was pretty slick but that is totally understandable considering the weather we have had. It meant riders who could get on to the inside line and stay there were in little danger of being overtaken.

It favoured good gaters who could keep control. Step forward former Eagle Scott Nicholls who was quite immaculate for Coventry and Eagles’ Simon Gustafsson who pulled of a superb, match-winning victory in heat 15.

And while we are dishing out the praise, let’s hear from Eastbourne’s Finn Timo Lahti. At this time last year you wouldn’t have bet on him scoring a point but on Saturday he trapped, held his nerve and in heat four beat Nicholls.

Some scalp for a rider many had written off.

If young Lahti continues to make progress at this rate, his name will ring out across the Elite League and across the wider world stage.

He’s gone from rabbit to an excellent reserve in 12 months and he is still only 18. I for one had never heard of him before he joined the Eagles last year after the problems with Polish rider Dawid Lampart.

Lahti had a trial in front of club senior promoter Bob Dugard and team manager Trevor Geer. They gave him the thumbs up and it is now proving to be an excellent piece of talent spotting.

Lahti’s fellow reserve Denis Gizatullin continues to improve and at 27 has plenty of experience and nous.

He’s not fence scraping and the wild man from Russia but a thoughtful rider who reads a race beautifully.

Eastbourne still miss their No1 Joonas Kylmakorpi and against Coventry used the rider replacement rule to cover.

It netted five points – surely Kylmakorpi would have done better than that.

The team miss him because using rider replacement for your No 1 does pile on the pressure. He was due to be back in action at the weekend but a comeback attempt in Poland on Sunday and in England for the Eagles at Belle Vue on Monday were thwarted by rain. He had a practice session in Poland on Saturday and the reports were none to favourable.

As a result he had a further MRI scan and a further hospital appointment was also due. Just when he will return we do not know. It could be in a matter of days.

Averages mean that Eastbourne could bring in a short-term replacement – and a “big” name. It is not for the want of trying but the club management have, I am led to believe, been turned down by some big names who would really set the terraces alight.

It is only the release of the current averages that allows Eastbourne to sign a big No 1 but if they won’t come, what can you do?