Scunthorpe Scorpions lose narrowly in Somerset but have great chance in second leg of speedway play-offs tomorrow
The Henderson Insurance Scunthorpe Scorpions put in a great effort at Somerset’s Oak Tree Arena last night (Friday) in the first leg of the Premier League Play-Off Final.
Watched by around 200 travelling Scunthorpe fans who made the four-hour trip, the Scorpions eventually lost 44-49. But they have put themselves into a healthy position heading into Sunday’s second leg at the Eddie Wright Raceway.
With a little luck, the Scorpions could have won the meeting. Michael Palm Toft dropped a primary chain while leading Heat 6 and a 5-1 was lost. Toft lost another primary chain in Heat 12, losing a further point, while guest Anders Mellgren was also plagued by machinery problems, and also lost a chain while second in Heat 5.
In a meeting of fluctuating fortunes, the Scorpions took a 4-2 in Heat 1, and again took the lead after a win for Gary Irving in Heat 4. Nick Morris team-rode with Irving in this race, but as a consequence, Morris himself was caught at the death by Claus Vissing.
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On a bitterly cold night, the Somerset track was unusually slick. However, there was plenty of drama and also some good racing.
The double chain breaks of Heats 5 & 6 ruined Scunthorpe’s chance of consolidating their lead, and then the Rebels came on strong over the next four heats to move into a 35-25 lead.
Scunthorpe No 1 Josh Auty donned the black & white helmet colour as a Tactical Ride in Heat 11, and Mellgren put his previous mechanical problems behind him to race past Vissing to join Auty for an 8-1 that reduced the deficit to just three points.
That deficit looked like it may come down to one point in Heat 12, as Ashley Birks shot past Jesper B Monberg into the lead. But, simultaneously, Monberg re-passed Birks and Toft lost his second chain, as the Rebels took a 4-2.
A 5-1 to Somerset in Heat 13 took the score to 45-36 and left the large contingent of Scunthorpe fans looking anxiously at the line-ups of the last two races.
They needn’t have worried as Birks and Toft took a fine 5-1 in Heat 14, and then Morris won the final race, as the Scorpions ended the match just five points in arrears.
All six Scorpions won a race at some point of proceedings. Although the tie and therefore the destination of the Premier League remains in the balance, the Scorpions are likely to be the happier of the two teams with this result.
All roads lead to the Eddie Wright Raceway on Sunday (4pm) for what is bound to be a cracking deciding leg.
Richard Hollingsworth, the Scorpions’ team manager, said: “We’d have settled for a five-point deficit before we started tonight.
“Three shed chains didn’t help us at all. It looked a bit dicey with a couple of races to go. The 5-1 in Heat 14 was a blessing, and then Nick popped out in Heat 15 and won that one.
“It was a difficult night to predict. We had six riders capable of winning races, but also it was very easy to run a last out there because the track was slick.
“It was a satisfactory result for us. We now have to race 15 more heats at the Eddie Wright Raceway on Sunday, and hopefully we will race them well.”
Promoter Rob Godfrey added: “The whole thing is in the balance and it should be an absolutely cracking meeting on Sunday.
“We haven’t left ourselves a massive mountain to climb. By the same token, we could have won the meeting tonight and built up quite a nice lead, had it not been for bad luck.
“Hopefully that’s all our bad luck used up, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much misfortune with chains in one meeting.
“We dropped behind at one point, so there was a little bit of relief when we got the 8-1 and also when we pulled it back a bit at the end.
“We’re just five points down going into our home meeting at the Eddie Wright Raceway, which is not a bad place to be. However, we are not – and never will be – complacent. It could still go down to Heat 15 at Scunny; we just don’t know.
“It was great to see all the fans who had travelled down from Scunthorpe and got right behind the boys. I’ve never seen so many Scunthorpe fans at an away meeting. The fans know how much it means to me, and I know how much it means to them.”
Somerset Rebels 49: Craig Cook (guest) 7+1 (4), Alex Davies 7+2 (4), Jesper B Monberg 9+1 (5), James Wright 8 (4), Claus Vissing 10+1 (5), Kyle Newman 7+1 (5), Lewis Kerr (guest) 1 (3).
Henderson Insurance Scunthorpe Scorpions 44: Josh Auty 9 (5) (incl. 6-point tactical ride), Anders Mellgren (guest) 5+1 (4), Thomas Jorgensen R/R, Ashley Birks 7 (5), Nick Morris 10 (5), Michael Palm Toft 9+1 (7), Gary Irving 4+1 (4).