Eagles’ mid-meeting revival has Geer eyeing the play-offs

Trevor Geer
Trevor Geer

The Elite League Play Off aspirations of the Eastbourne Eagles received another huge shot in the arm at Arlington stadium on Friday evening as they staged a stunning mid meeting revival to defeat rivals King’s Lynn Stars by an ultimately comfortable 53-37 margin.

The Stars, proven performers around the Sussex circuit since their return to the top flight in 2011, arrived at the venue reflecting on an array of impressive results on the road with points having been gathered at the respective homes of section pace setters Poole and Swindon in recent weeks, the latter where they claimed a 45-45 draw.

It appeared that successful run might continue as Eastbourne, seemingly unable to break with convention saw their visitors take an early lead, the Stars amassing a six-point advantage (12-6) after only three races and with former Eagle Ulrich Ostergaard showing up particularly well it seemed that the Sussex side may well struggle.

When the turnaround came however, it proved effective and it proved decisive. Covering well for the absence of Lewis Bridger, injured at Swindon the previous evening, for whom the Rider Replacement facility saw only one point dropped, the Eagles hit back to lead by 2-points (19-17) just three races later courtesy of 5-1’s in heats four and six.

Though the Stars countered with a 4-2 to level things up again in the eighth, it was the Sussex side who were soon to exert some authority, a punishing sequence of four 5-1’s in the following five heats leaving the Stars reeling and setting the hosts on course for a convincing victory as they crafted a 16-point advantage (47-31) with just two races left to run.

For Eastbourne it proved a solid all round effort, Simon Gustafsson, Joonas Kylmakorpi and Lukas Dryml all hitting double figures and Denis Gizatullin could have considered himself unfortunate not to improve on his four-point (paid five) tally following a fall in heat eleven after he suffered a fall having battled from the back to lead visiting number one Niels-Kristian Iversen.

For the Stars, Iversen, Ostergaard and Kevin Wolbert all banked wins in the early stages but their flair seemed to fade and it was Mads Korneliussen who was eventually to emerge their top scorer with 10-points in bizarre circumstances in the final heat.

With the match already won and three-points secured for the Sussex side ahead of the nominated rider’s race, Iversen and Wolbert were the preferred candidates to face Kylmakorpi and Gustafsson in the final heat.

With the Danish World Cup winner destined to be ruled out for exceeding the two minute time allowance however, Korneliussen stepped into the breach and one perfect gate and ride later it was he crossed the finish line first to top the Stars score chart.

Eastbourne Team Manager Trevor Geer cut a relieved figure as the dust settled on another entertaining Arlington contest “Make no mistake, this was a meeting that we had to win and win well” he commented. “King’s Lynn are a good side, one of our main rivals for a Play Off place and since their return to the top flight, they always seem to turn in a good performance here. I expected to be very tough and that’s just how it looked in the early stages”.

I’m not sure why the lads seemed to feel they need to hand the opposition a lead in the early heats, I wish they wouldn’t, it really isn’t good for the heart rate” he continued. “However, you can’t deny it makes for great entertainment and it did so once again. They bounced back in style and I was particularly pleased, of course with the five 5-1’s mid meeting that turned it around for us, but also with the way they covered the rider replacement rides in the absence of Lewis (Bridger).”

“This result keeps us well in the hunt for a Play Off place and I couldn’t be happier” he concluded.

Eagles: Simon Gustafsson 13+1(6), Jonas Kylmakorpi 12+2(6), Lukas Dryml 11+1(5), Time Lahti 7+1(4), Cameron Woodward 6+2(5), Denis Gizatullin 4+1(4), Rider Replacement for Lewis Bridger. – 53

Stars: Mads Korneliussen 10(6), Ulrich Ostergaard 9+2(7), Kevin Wolbert 8+1(5), Niels-Kristian Iversen 8(4), Daniel Nermark 2(4), Mateusz Szczpaniak 0(3), Rider Replacement for Maciej Janowski. – 37