Eastbourne IT First Eagles secured a 30-30 draw in the first leg of a truncated first leg of the KO Cup at Cradley last night (October 22).
The result sets up the Eagles for the second leg at Arlington Stadium on Saturday (7.30pm) when they will hope to win their third success of the season, having already landed the Gold Cup and the National Trophy.
The match at Cradley ended after ten heats, although the result stands, with proceedings delayed for remedial track work.
Rain in the build-up to the meeting left the surface heavy and riders found it difficult to race. Eastbourne director Connor Dugard said: “The team did a fabulous job on what was a difficult track for both sets of riders.
“We battled hard and the result sets us up perfectly for the second leg at Arlington. Our performance summed up the spirit we have developed at Eastbourne this year.”
Eagles went into the first leg with two riders missing.
Daniel Spiller was unavailable because of studies in Germany and Georgie Wood was resting his injured knee.
Martin Knuckey from Coventry Storm guested for Wood with the rider replacement rule used to cover Spiller’s rides. Heat one was shared 3-3, although the Eagles can count themselves fortunate as home No 1 Max Clegg suffered a puncture and came last, having been on a 5-1 with Danny Ayres. Reserves Richie Andrews and Kelsey Dugard then shot from the gate in heat two and just romped away to a maximum heat win, although the home riders looked in trouble on the track.
Cradley immediately hit back with a 5-1 in what was to become a pattern for the evening with both sides trading blows.
Ayres and Arron Mogridge, whose father Alan used to ride for Eastbourne, were all-the-way winners of heat three with Eagles’ guest Knuckey falling.
The pendulum immediately swung back in the Eagles’ favour. Home rider Matt Williamson fell while leading leaving Ben Hopwood and Andrews to negotiate the tricky conditions. Eastbourne extended the advantage to 18-12 with Bradley Wilson-Dean winning heat five with Ayres the faller this time round.
Heat six saw Hopwood fall and Kelsey Dugard could not prevent a Cradley 5-1.
Back it went Eastbourne’s way with Knuckey and Marc Owen getting a 5-1.
The 4-2 that followed seemed to be setting up the Eagles for victory who led 28-20 after eight heats.
Track staff then made enormous efforts to improve the racing surface and after more than 40 minutes the racing resumed. However, the track was still in poor condition. In heat nine Hopwood crashed out as the Eagles conceded a 5-1 and Cradley pulled another four points back when Knuckey fell in the next race to leave the scores at 30-30.
In heat 11, Dugard was a faller but there was no time for a re-run with the 10pm curfew on racing having been passed.
CRADLEY 30: Danny Ayres 9, Arron Mogridge 8+3, Max Clegg 6, Matt Williamson 4, Jack Smith 2+1, Tyler Govier 1, Ellis Perks R/R.
EASTBOURNE 30: Richard Andrews 7+2, Marc Owen 7+1, Bradley Wilson-Dean 5, Kelsey Dugard 4+1, Martin Knuckey 4, Ben Hopwood 3, Daniel Spiller R/R.