Eagles dreaming of play-offs after impressive Bees victory

Timo Lahti
Timo Lahti

Eastbourne Eagles declared themselves still well and truly in the mix for an Elite League play-off place following a resounding 52-38 victory at Coventry Bees on Friday night.

Frustrated by the weather the previous evening, their scheduled visit to Birmingham being the subject of a lunchtime call off following heavy rainfall in the area, the Sussex side took out their disappointment on a beleaguered Bees outfit, one who never led throughout the fifteen heats.

It would be true to report that the home side went to tapes missing key riders, Chris Harris and Kenni Larsen absent due to the following days Grand Prix qualifier, a meeting that also saw Eastbourne without the talents of Joonas Kylmakorpi.

Brandon track specialist Sebastian Ulamek deputised in place of the Finn while Simon Stead stood in for Larsen, the Bees ulitilising Rider Replacement for Harris.

It proved a solid, all round performance from the Eagles, one that saw them edge ahead following an opening sequence of three shared heats as Timo Lahti, another outstanding reserve performance from the Finn, combined with Lewis Bridger in heat four.

This advantage was doubled three races later, following two further 3-3’s as captain Cameron Woodward and Simon Gustafsson teamed up for a similar result to put Eagles 23-19 to the good after seven races.

Incidentally both of those heats looked likely to proffer maximum points for the Sussex side but on each occasion, Scott Nicholls, returning from injury though still looking far from full fitness following an injured collarbone, made telling runs at the tail end of the race to thwart the Eastbourne ambition.

Coventry missed a golden opportunity to square the match up in heat-eight as they led for a 5-1 but a superb ride from Lahti and an apparent loss of control from number one Edward Kennett on the final two turns saw the race end as a 3-3, the two home riders, Henning Bager and Kennett apparently having a frank exchange of views once back in the pits at the conclusion.

The Bees did indeed pull level following back to back 4-2’s in races nine and ten, the latter seeing Woodward disqualified, though the Eagles contingent would certainly offer a different viewpoint, for being responsible as Adam Roynon fell on the first lap.

It tended not to matter greatly in the final run in however, the Eagles seizing firm control of the fixture in the final five heats, providing all five heat winners, three of those coming from Ulamek who capped a quite superb guest show for the visitors.

Ulamek and Lukas Dryml shared a 4-2 at the expense of Nicholls to restore the Eastbourne lead in the eleventh before Gustafsson and Lahti combined for maximum points ahead of Stead to put their side 6-points (39-33) to the good with twelve heats down.

Heat thirteen looked set to reap a further advantage as Ulamek again won comfortably but Bridger took a tumble while holding a comfortable looking third place ahead of Kennett but back to back 5-1’s in the final two races really set the Sussex side apart from their hosts, Woodward and Lahti romping clear of both Roynon and Bager in the penultimate heat before Ulamek and Woodward, once again set the seal on a fantastic Eastbourne win and four valuable Elite League points with a similar strike to the detriment of Kennett and Stead in the last.

Co-Promoter Mike Bellerby was suitably delighted at the conclusion “We really believe that we have achieved something we can build on here this evening. Each and every one of the lads had a part to play and so far as we were concerned they played it just right. This proved a truly magnificent night for the Eagles and our fans and a result, and not forgetting our second away win in succession following the victory at Belle Vue last month, that keeps us well and truly in the mix for an Elite League Play Off place”.

“It has certainly proved an enjoyable night for us, team spirit is high, confidence is high, all we can say right now is bring on the Poole Pirates next week.”

Scorers: Bees : Edward Kennett 9+1(6), Simon Stead (Guest for Kenni Larsen) 9+1(6), Scott Nicholls 8(4), Aaron Summers 4+1(4), Adam Roynon 4(5), Henning Bager 4(5), Rider Replacement for Chris Harris. – 38

Eagles: Sebastian Ulamek (Guest for Joonas Kylmakorpi) 12(5), Timo Lahti 11+2(5), Cameron Woodward 9+2(5), Simon Gustafsson 8(4), Lewis Bridger 4+1(4), Lukas Dryml 5+1(4), Denis Gizatullin 3+1(4). – 52