Eastbourne Eagles 51 Lakeside Hammers 39
EASTBOURNE Eagles returned to their winning ways in front of the Sky Sports cameras at Arlington stadium last night, recovering from an early eight-point deficit to defeat their local rivals and play-off contenders.
Cameron Woodward produced a superb captain’s performance, dropping only a single point to the opposition and number one Joonas Kylmakorpi picked up nicely following a pointless first outing on his return from injury.
Not for the first time this season, the Sussex side were destined to play catch up around their home circuit, a strong opening volley from their visitors saw the Hammers lead 16-8 after only four races courtesy of a brace of 5-1s in heats one and four.
Clearly ring rusty following a three-week lay-off, the Eagles struggled to give a good account of themselves in the opening exchanges. But as the match progressed it was the Sussex side who grew in stature,
Heat leader trio of Kylmakorpi, Simon Gustafsson and Lewis Bridger each won their second rides having trailed in last place in their first. In fact all the Eagles, with the exception of Denis Gizatulin who didn’t enjoy the best of fortunes, made a telling contribution as the meeting unfolded,
Eastbourne, finishing by far the stronger with back to back 5-1s and a closing 4-2 in the final three heats, ran out comfortable 12-point winners to claim three valuable Elite League points which keep them in the hunt for a play-off place
Once again Timo Lahti weighed in with some crucial points from the reserve berth following a stuttering start to proceedings. After some early machinery niggles were attended to, the Finn shared a vital 5-1 with Lukas Dryml in heat eight to finally pull Eagles level at 24-points apiece, Gustafsson and Woodward had previously secured maximum points in the fifth heat over Hammers number one Davey Watt to halve the deficit.
Much as anticipated, it was former Eagle Watt, along with Peter Karlsson and prolific reserve Robert Mear, eight-points including two wins in his first three outings, who proved the pick of the visitors but even their scoring tailed off as the match drew to a conclusion and the hosts picked up the momentum.
Dryml shared a further 5-1, this time with Kylmakorpi over Karlsson in heat ten as the Sussex outfit took the lead (32-28) for the first time, and surviving a Hammers 4-2 in the next, they finished by far the stronger, maximum points from Bridger and Kylmakorpi then Woodward and Lahti respectively in thirteen and fourteen increasing the advantage to double figures with just the final race to run.
A moment of controversy as Lahti was reinstated following a first bend fall in the penultimate race drew protestations from Hammers Team Manager Neil Vatcher but referee Christina Turnbull remained adamant that there had been contact between the Eagle and Mear and the Finn took full advantage of the second chance, rising to secure the win that put the home side within sight of a full cache of three Elite League points.
The final word, in many ways fittingly, belonged to man of the moment Woodward who romped home ahead of fellow countryman Watt for a closing Eastbourne 4-2, Kylmakorpi following in third place, and a handsome 12-point win for the Sussex side.
Eagles Team Manager and Co-Promoter Trevor Geer summed up his delight following another hard fought win for his side. He said, “Once again we had to recover from a slow start, conceding an eight-point lead to the Hammers but the lads responded well and I’m pleased to say, bounced back in style”.
“This is potentially a make or break week for us in terms of play-off progression and while we harbour strong hopes of taking some reward from visits to Birmingham and Coventry on Thursday and Friday, it was imperative that we didn’t start the week by slipping up here at home against Lakeside.
“The win this evening showcased some of our battling qualities and as such has provided the ideal springboard to our matches against both the Brumbies and the Bees. The boys are all looking forward to showing what they can do then and as for tonight, I am very pleased with them.”
Eagles : Cameron Woodward 11+3(5), Time Lahti 9+2(5), Jonas Kylmakorpi 9+1(5), Lewis Bridger 8(4), Simon Gustafsson 7(4), Lukas Dryml 6+1(4), Denis Gizatullin 1+1(3). – 51
Hammers : Peter Karlsson 11(6), Davey Watt 9(5), Robert Mear 8(6), Kim Nilsson 6+2(5), Kauko Nieminen 5+3(5), Alex Davies 0(3). – 39