Bridger leads fight back for the Eagles

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Eastbourne Eagles defied all the odds to keep their unbeaten home record intact at Arlington stadium on Saturday evening.

The Sussex side bounced back from a tortuous opening to the meeting to defeat current Elite League leaders, the Wolverhampton Wolves, by a 47-43 margin.

Lewis Bridger returned to prove the out and out star for his former club, a scintillating and ultimately match winning performance netting him 17-points, that including a ride right out of the top drawer in the penultimate race, a third to first effort that set the Eagles on course for victory.

With Bjarne Pedersen wrapping up the match with his second defeat of Wolves number one Fredrik Lindgren in the final race, the Dane having recovered from a nightmare first two rides to scorch to victory in each of his last four, this drew collective sighs of relief from around the Arlington terraces. The Eagles faithful left wondering quite how their side had manufactured what had earlier appeared a most unlikely victory.

With Eagles already covering for skipper Cameron Woodward’s absence with the rider replacement facility and calling on Kyle Newman as a guest for the injured Denis Gizatullin, their problems deepened as Czech star Lukas Dryml was ruled out of the meeting, suffering a broken collarbone, even before the first race had been completed.

Wolves, themselves compensating for the loss of Tai Woffinden who sustained a similar injury in last weekend’s Cardiff Grand Prix, clearly sensed an opportunity and four race wins in the first six courtesy of Lindgren, twice from American Ricky Wells and another from guest Stuart Robson quickly crafted a 6-point advantage, although this maybe should have been a 10-point lead, the visitors cruelly denied a 5-1 in heat six as Ludvig Lindgren’s machine failed him within yards of the finish line.

Indeed, this moment seemed to spark the turnaround, with Pedersen changing bikes to prompt a second wind,

Bridger riding out of his skin and Simon Gustafsson also finding some of his true form to return double figures, the Eagles gradually dismantled the Wolves lead, Timo Lahti also getting in on the act, sharing maximum points with the Swede against Fredrik Lindgren in the ninth to pull Eastbourne level at 27-points apiece.

A series of shared races followed before Pedersen’s first defeat of the Wolves number in thirteen, a 4-2 combined with Lahti that at 40-38, installed them into a lead for the first time in the match.

Bridger’s wonder ride, arguably Arlington’s race of the season, set the Eagles on course for victory with Pedersen sealing the deal with a fourth win in the last. Gustafsson’s third place ahead of Robson earning them the 4-2 that wrapped up an incident packed four-point victory.

See Friday’s Herald for more Elite League speedway action