Eagles show top form to see off champions

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Eastbourne maintained their winning home record against Swindon on Saturday in a tight match which saw some excellent speedway.

The defending league champions went away from Arlington with one league point – a reversal of the situation in Wiltshire a few weeks ago when the Lifestyle Eagles took a surprise “bonus” point from the fixture.

Both teams used rider replacement: Eastbourne for the retired Adam Shields and Swindon for the injured Nick Morris. Swindon also drafted in former Eagle Scott Nicholls to take the place of Hans Andersen whose wife had a baby on Saturday evening.

Eastbourne got off to an excellent start with a 4-2 in the opener and a 5-1 in the reserves’ race. However, former Eagle Edward Kennett and Peter Kildeman closed the gap in race three with a 5-1 from the gate.

First surprise of the night came in heat six when Swindon reserve Ashley Birks gated with Troy Batchelor to hit the front. What followed was one of the best pieces of team riding at Arlington for many years as Batchelor protected Birks by fending off the challenge of home star Bjarne Pedersen.

This was a race for the purists and the fans witnessed what is something of a dying art. The 5-1 levelled the scores at 18-18.

Kennett continued his good form next time and Swindon took a narrow lead.

It was nip and tuck over the next few races before Eastbourne struck a telling blow by taking a 5-1 in heat ten through Pedersen and Lukas Dryml. Kennett chased in spectacular style but could not get on terms.

Heat 11 looked to be crucial and when Cameron Woodward and Dryml hit the front a 5-1 was on the cards. However, Dryml fell when under severe pressure from Nicholls, who put his bike down to avoid a serious crash.

Gizatullin then came to the fore with a really hard first two bends in which he appeared to muscle his way to the front to take the flag in heat 12.

Heat 13 proved controversial after a fall on the apex of turns 1 and 2 by Batchelor who was on the outside of three riders as they went into the bend.

The 4-2 established a six point for the Eagles and in heat 14 Dryml was the winner but Timo Lahti could not quite get on terms to put the Eagles in a position to take all three league points.

Pedersen won heat 15 but Gizatullin, a surprise choice for the race, was unable to come through to pick up third place, leaving the score at 48-32. Gizatullin got the nod because of his earlier victory and the fact that Woodward was carrying a couple of injuries from last weekend, had suffered a finger injury when he fell earlier in the meeting and had been unwell during the days leading up to the match.

Eagles: Bjarne Pedersen 13(5), Lukas Dryml 12+1 (7), Denis Gizatullin 9+1 (5), Cameron Woodward 6 (4), Timo Lahti 6 (4) Simon Gustafsson 2+1(5), rider replacement for Adam Shields.

Robins: Edward Kennett 10+1 (5), Scott Nicholls 10 (5), Troy Batchelor 8+2 (5), Ashley Birks 7+1 (7), Peter Kildemand 5+1 (4), Kacper Gomolski 2+2 (5)