Simon Gustafsson proved to be a last heat hero as the Eastbourne Eagles held on to secure a vital victory over the highly-rated Coventry Bees at Arlington Stadium on Saturday evening.
Just three-points (45-42) separated the two sides with four laps of racing remaining.
With former Eastbourne duo Scott Nicholls and Edward Kennett in lining up opposition to the Swede along with Bridger in the final race the very real chance remained that the Bees, having clawed their way back from a 10-point 35-25 deficit after heat 10 courtesy of a Kennett inspired 8-1 in the eleventh, could complete the job and snatch a last gasp win.
The Swede kept a cool head however, making the best of starts off of the favoured inside gate and he led every step of the way to deny both Kennett and Nicholls, the latter having dropped a single point to that stage in a most impressive Arlington return.
The Sussex side had looked to be heading towards a comfortable victory against the team that also included heavy hitting duo Chris Harris and Kenni Larsen.
One hotly tipped to bank a Play Off place, however the Eagles themselves had already had to play catch up following a nightmarish opening that had seen them concede maximum 5-1’s in heats one and three to go 8-points, 13-5 down.
They rallied in impressive style, in a solid all round team performance, however and despite the 8-1, that threatened to derail their ambition, they held on to take the win, Gustafsson’s victory in the final heat proving most crucial.
Reflecting on something of a seesaw contest, Eastbourne Co-promoter and Team Manager Trevor Geer was grateful to take the two Elite League points.
“It would have been ideal to grab all three-points, especially after being 10-points up, but when you consider at one stage we found ourselves 8-points down, I was just relieved to get the win - particularly against a team of Coventry’s quality.
“The lads got stuck in and battled hard to come back from that and yes, I was pleased with all of them.”
Geer revealed that the club had been given a boost as injured number one Joonas Kylmakorpi had declared himself fit enough, following weekend try-outs in Poland, to ride in Eagles Bank Holiday fixture at Belle Vue.
“Joonas was due to make his comeback at Swindon next Thursday (tomorrow)but we got the call to say he was intending to take his place on Monday.
“This is great news for us. If the meet had gone ahead we would have targeted that as a chance to put some away points on the board to replace those that we have dropped at home.
“With Joonas back in the side, not only do we have our number one back but it takes the pressure off the rest of the lads not having to cover his rides.
Monday’s meet at Belle Vue was called off due to the rain. On the thursday the Eagles are in action at Swindon.