Eastbourne Eagles cement play-off ambitions

Lewis Bridger red inside Ben Barker yell Danny King white
Lewis Bridger red inside Ben Barker yell Danny King white

EASTBOURNE EAGLES took a massive step towards the play-offs with a resounding 54-38 thumping of the Birmingham Brummies at Arlington on Saturday.

The win cemented the East Sussex side’s fourth place in the Elilte League as they go on a run of important fixtures in the build-up to September’s final four showdown.

Once again reserve Timo Lahti was in sparkling form for the Eagles, topping the scorechart with 12-points (paid 14) and as the match unfolded he received solid support throughout the order, not least from Lewis Bridger and fellow Countryman Joonas Kylmakorpi who each hit double figures, the Eagles also banking two thirds of the race wins by a majority ten to five against their visitors.

For Birmingham, skipper Daniel King and partner Ben Barker proved the stand out performers with 14-points and 10 (paid 12) respectively but elsewhere, despite the odd flash from reserve Josh Auty there was little more to come, their supporters no doubt hoping for more particularly from the likes of experienced heat leader duo Sebastian Ulamek and former Eagle Bjarne Pedersen who between them mustered a mere 6-points.

Not for the first time this season, the Eagles found themselves playing catch up after the Brummies’ lead duo, King and Barker secured maximum points from heat three to go 10-7 ahead.

But, responding in style, the Eagles hit back with three successive 5-1’s of their own to establish a comfortable looking nine point (22-13) lead after six races.

Barker and King garnered another advantage, a 4-2 over Bridger in the seventh to stem the flow but a further trio of 5-1’s in heats eight, ten and 11, the second of these eclipsing Barker’s tactical ride outing, effectively determined the destiny of the match points with the scores moving to 42-23 in the Eagles’ favour.

King’s tactical ride reaped richer rewards as he triumphed for a Birmingham 6-3 in the 12th ahead of Simon Gustafsson and Lahti, the Finn’s one defeat of the evening by an opponent.

However, a seventh maximum advantage followed for the Eagles as Kylmakorpi and Bridger, despite Pedersen keeping them on their toes throughout, romped home in heat 13, 20-points, Leading 50-30, with two races left, Eastbourne has another three Elite League points safely locked away.

The Brummies finished with a flourish, King and Barker rounding off effective performances from each of them with a final heat 5-1 over Bridger and Kylmakorpi, Barker also having tasted victory over Cameron Woodward in the penultimate race. But sadly, for the visitors, it proved a case of too little too late with the Eagles running out comfortable and worthy winners by a 54-38 margin.

Eastbourne team manager, Trevor Geer, was again a happy man with the form shown by his charges.

He said, “To be honest I expected a slightly tougher test against the Brummies this evening; they’re a good and solid looking side and all of their riders are capable of scoring points around Arlington.

“The fact that this was our first meeting for three weeks, since the win at Coventry, I thought might work against us but all the lads knuckled down and did the job that we asked, I can’t remember seeing quite so many 5-1’s in the second half of a meeting.

“With a busy week ahead, providing the weather stays with us, visits to both Peterborough and Swindon on Monday and Thursday and a home match against King’s Lynn on Friday, this performance will spur them on.

“The boys always ride better during a busy spell and I feel we can only improve.

“I have high hopes that we can bring some reward home from our travels and if we can compound that with another good performance against the Stars next weekend, I am sure that we will still be locked on course for a place in the play-offs.”

Eagles : Time Lahti 12+2(5), Jonas Kylmakorpi 10+2(5), Lewis Bridger 10+2(5), Cameron Woodward 9(4), Lukas Dryml 8+1(4), Simon Gustafsson 4+1(4), Denis Gizatullin 1+1(3). – 54

Brummies : Daniel King 14(5), Ben Barker 10+2(5), Bjarne Pedersen 4+1(4), Josh Auty 4(5), Tomasz Piszcz 2+1(4), Martin Smolinski 2(3), Sebastian Ulamek 2(4). – 38