Eastbourne Seagulls' speedway opener is marred by injury
Eastbourne Seagulls were dealt an injury blow that was key in leaving them with a 47-43 defeat in their first match of the season away to Leicester Cubs in the National Development League.
The match was all to play for until heat nine was half-way through. Henry Atkins suddenly pulled up at the start of lap 3 with a dislocated shoulder and took no further part in the meeting. That allowed the home team to open up a 31-23 lead which left the Sussex side with a mountain to climb.
However, they battled on and salvaged one league point because they lost by fewer than seven points. The Seagulls, powered by Save Thurrock Hammers Speedway, hope Atkins will only be on the sidelines for a few weeks. He will be seeking medical advice today.
Seagulls No 1 Jake Knight turned in a masterclass on his return to the Eastbourne ranks, scoring 15 points from five rides. Knight was an inspiration to the team who rallied when all seemed lost.
Team manager Will Pottinger said he was fairly confident his team would have ‘nicked” the victory had Atkins not been injured. “It was a major handicap to lose a rider who had already won a couple of races. That was a major loss and one you cannot replace with due respect to the reserves," he said.
“We battled on and managed to get a few heat advantages later in the meeting to bring the score closer and Jake did the business by winning the last heat. He rode fantastically well all night.
“Nathan Ablitt made a great contribution and he deserved to ride in heat 15. It was a bit of long shot to use him with Jake but it gives him an idea of what he will be up against in heat 15s in future.”
Pottinger said everyone would feel better for getting the first meeting out the way. He added: “We have to be happy going home with a point, given the circumstances. It was well deserved.”
The Seagulls will have to use rider replacement for Atkins on Saturday when they face the Newcastle Gems at Arlington Stadium as the second match of a double header.
Leicester: Dan Thompson 14 (6 rides), Joe Thompson 12+1 (5), Joe Lawlor 8+1 (4), Tom Spencer 7+4 (5), James Chattin 4+1 (5), Kai Ward 2+1 (5).
Eastbourne: Jake Knight 15 (5), Nathan Ablitt 11+1 (7), Henry Atkins 6 (3), Chad Wirtzfeld 5 (4), Richard Andrews 4+1 (4), Connor King 1+1 (3), Nick Laurence 1 (4).