Battle of Birmingham will decide Eagles’ fate

The battle for an Elite League play-off spot will go down to the wire but the involvement of the Eastbourne Eagles could be in the hands of their rivals as the regular season inches to a close this week.

The Eagles raced their last meet when they travelled to Birmingham on Thursday evening, while the teams around them don’t see out their final fixtures until early next week, potentially leaving the Eagles with an agonising wait to see if they’ve done enough to secure a top-four finish.

Ahead of their trip to the Perry Bar Stadium, the Eagles occupied the last play-off spot in the Elite League table but failure to get a result against the Brummies would see the Midlands outfit overtake Eastbourne in the league standings, subsequently bringing a halt to the Arlington outfit’s campaign.

Even if Eastbourne managed to pocket some points from their final meet, they will still find themselves up against it with Lakeside and Birmingham sitting just one and two points behind them respectively and with meets in hand.

For Eastbourne to finish the season within the top four, they must hope Birmingham fail to pick up any points in their fixtures against Coventry, Swindon and Poole, while also praying Lakeside return pointless from their meets with Swindon and Peterborough.

Peterborough themselves are going strong in the fight to the finish after they sprung their way into third place in the league following a resounding victory over the Eagles on Monday night.

Eastbourne never led during the tie at the Panthers’ East of England Showground and could only attempt to claw back some points after finding themselves 24-6 down after just five heats.

Following advantages in four out of the next five races for the visitors, the margin was reduced to just eight points at 38-30 as the Eagles tried to salvage at least a bonus point from the meet.

However, despite a valiant effort from Lukas Dryml who top-scored with 14, their comeback fell 16 points short and they left empty-handed, which was made all the more frustrating by the fact their opponents gained maximum points to jump above them in the table.

The result – their third consecutive defeat and eleventh loss on the road so far this season – only served to deepen concerns about the Eagles’ away form ahead of their match with the Brummies on Thursday.

The Eagles recorded a comfortable 54-38 victory over the Brummies when they met at Arlington back in July but they would need to produce a similar performance on the road, which has become something of a rarity, if they were to overcome their opponents this time round.

If Eastbourne do find themselves in fifth place or below come the end of next week, they must ask serious questions about why their results on the road have not matched those at home, causing them to squander third place and the chance at the Elite League title that just eluded them last year.

Find out how Eastbourne got on at Birmingham and keep up-to-date with their progress online at www.eastbourneherald.co.uk.