Eastbourne put in a storming performance this afternoon at Arlington Stadium to establish a big KO Cup lead against Birmingham.
The Fineprint Eagles swept to a 57-32 victory in the first leg, first round tie.
However, the scoreline does not do the second city team justice.
They battled hard, especially over the early stages, and were in touching distance at the half-way stage.
Then the Eagles hit top gear and piled on the points.
Richard Lawson remains unbeaten by an opponent at Arlington.
Lewi Kerr hit a paid maximum.
Georgie Wood had his best meeting at this level for the Eagles and refused to back down in a feisty heat 14 when he and Ashley Morris contested every inch of the track in the run to the first corner.
Eventually, the referee ruled that Morris was at fault and threw him out of the race, which left Eastbourne to take a 5-0 – James Shanes having been excluded in the first running of the heat.
Joint team manager Will Pottinger said the lead “should be” a big enough ahead of the second leg next month at Perry Bar.
“You never know what might happen. We have to be professional when we go there and get off to a good start in the return leg and try to put the tie to bed as early was we can.
“Birmingham are a solid team. They are always good for the second and third places and that’s what they were doing to start with.
“In the second-half of the meeting we were really good and I am really pleased with a 25-point lead. You cannot really ask for much more than that,” he said.
Richard Lawson said: “It was an all round good performance. Everyone is getting that confidence going.”
Eastbourne: Richard Lawson 14+1, Lewi Kerr 13+2, Edward Kennett 9, Georgie Wood 9+1, Tom Brennan 6, Alfie Bowtell 4+1, Ben Morley 2+1.
Birmingham: James Shanes 8+1, Kyle Newman 7, Zach Wajknecht 6+2, Paco Castagna 5, Ulrich Ostergaard 4, Ashley Morris 2, Tobias Thomsen 0.
*Eastbourne are at Somerset this coming Wednesday and your Eagles media team are planning heat-by-heat coverage on this website from the Oak Tree Arena.
Paul Watson’s five things we learned this afternoon
No race is won until the chequered flag. Obvious really but we saw Paco Castagna get to the last bend and fall and later Ben Morley was even closer to the flag before he was passed by Ashley Morris just yards from the lin
Referees are in charge. Another no brainer. Ashley Morris did himself no favours when he crashed in heat two on the first corner, stood up, waved furiously at the referee while the race continued instead of clearing the circuit. Of course, the red lights did come on – as did his exclusion light followed by an official warning.
Richard Lawson is nerveless. His ride around the outside in heat 13 was right out of the top drawer. Lawson literally brushed the safety fence to squeeze through into the lead. Brave or what?
Richard Lawson is a gentleman. In heat 11 he looked, saw Georgie Wood was behind in second but well clear of the chasing Brummies. So what did he do? He knocked the power off to usher Wood through to take a morale-boosting heat win.
Speedway’s back in Eastbourne with a bang. The crowd has grown again and this week topped the 1,250 mark.
Here’s out detailed report of yesterday afternoon’s fine victory, including heat-by-heat details from Kevin Ling.
Having already enjoyed two resounding Championship Shield victories around their own strip in 2019 so far, Eastbourne ‘Fineprint’ Eagles also made their presence felt in Knockout Cup action on Good Friday with a further handsome win at Arlington.
The Sussex side took firm command of their first round tie in the competition courtesy of an authoritative 57-32 success against visitors, the Birmingham Brummies.
Richard Lawson and Lewi Kerr again rode unbeaten by an opponent and Georgie Wood weighed in with a superb paid 10-point return from the reserve berth.
But, once again, it proved a solid all-round display from the home side that won the day.
Less than a fortnight on from their previous visit, the Midland outfit looked set to make recent history pay as they began strongly.
However, their challenge started to falter mid-meeting as the Eagles continued to apply pressure.
The match wasn’t without its controversial moments, however, with visiting team manager Laurence Rogers left frustrated by some refereeing decisions, ones that he claimed went unfairly against his side.
The most notable of these related to heat fourteen, a race that stretched to a third re-run and only two finishers with both Brummies, James Shanes and Ashley Morris being ruled out following falls, much to Mr Rogers’ annoyance.
The resultant 5-0 to the home side saw their overall lead move beyond the 20-point marker and a further maximum in the final race saw the final margin rest at 57-32, a massive 25-point advantage with which the Eagles travel to Perry Barr for the second leg on May 15th, a quarter-final tie against the Leicester Lions being the prize at stake.
Though handily placed, the Sussex promotion refused to show complacency and, as Laurence Rogers himself stated in a post-match interview: “A lot can happen between now and then, it’s not over until the Fat Lady sings.”
The sun shone and once again the crowds came out in force, a most pleasing aspect for the newly installed management structure.
Nevertheless, the warm weather can’t help but have an effect, the hard working track staff having to redouble their efforts in the hopes of keeping the dust down.
Certainly it was the visitors who looked set to get the better of the opening exchanges.
Former Eagle Ulrich Ostergaard made the start in heat one and although Ben Morley soon slipped through on his inside, the Dane powered around the wide line to claim an opening race victory at the expense of both Eastbourne skipper Edward Kennett as well as Morley in a time of 59.9.
Race two and the Brummies seemed sure to grab an early lead as Paco Castagna, a wholly impressive performer on his previous visit, led the field. Tom Brennan followed in close attendance but with Shanes fending off Wood, a 4-2 to the visitors looked the likely outcome.
No so, as events panned and celebration turned to devastation for the Midland outfit as the Italian lost control and piled into the air fence on the final turn, this leaving Brennan to sweep through for the win in a time of 59.2 and with it the 4-2 went the way of the home side.
Thankfully, Castagna was swiftly up and appeared none the worst for his misfortune, however, from a Birmingham perspective, was this an early pointer as to how their fortunes might fare?
It appeared so as Ashley Morris suffered a fall on the first turn in the very next race.
Though the referee didn’t spark the red stop lights, with riders bearing down on him Morris failed to clear the track necessitating a race stoppage.
Clearly, he felt that contact had been made but the official saw none and swiftly ruled out the Birmingham rider from the restart.
With Kerr an all-the-way winner (59.5), Kyle Newman and Alfie Bowtell jousted in the early part but the visiting rider was set to claim second place, nevertheless a second successive 4-2 to the Eagles saw them move into a 4-point advantage.
Lawson demonstrated his newly discovered liking for the Arlington circuit once again in the fourth.
Another powerful victory for the Eagle maintained the advantage but try though he might Brennan just couldn’t make up the early ground lost on either Shanes or Zach Wajtknecht and so the score remained at 3-3. Winner’s time 58.6.
Ostergaard proved all too eager to get away in the next race, ploughing through the starting tapes to earn his disqualification. Instead of the Dane being put back 15m, Castagna was introduced as the preferred option.
He was unable to prevent Kerr storming away for a second win (59.2), though the Italian had enough to keep Bowtell at bay.
It was the Eagles who would claim the 4-2 and a progressive 18-12 lead however after Tobias Thomsen got out of shape on bends three and four allowing the young Eagle to get away.
Kennett was an all the way winner of heat six (58.3), heading both Shanes and Wajtknecht to the chequered flag. A stuttering start for Morley saw him trail the field, but in spite of strenuous efforts he just couldn’t get on terms.
Lawson supplied Eastbourne’s sixth consecutive race winner in heat seven (59.4) but the real plus point for the Sussex fans was the performance of Wood.
In superb style, the Eagles reserve shot past Morris into third place on the back straight of lap one then cut inside Newman out of the second bend of lap three to secure a fighting second place and for a 5-1 shared with his partner, Lawson, and one that brought the house down.
Home celebrations were swiftly muted however as Castagna (59.9) and Shanes combined for a swift reply maximum in favour of the Brummies.
Brennan gave a fine account of himself, pushing the Birmingham captain all the way to the line but in the final reckoning the 5-1 went the way of the visitors, the scores now moving to 27-21.
With 6-points only the difference just beyond the half way mark the visitors certainly seemed in good shape and if able to keep it tight they would undoubtedly be confident of turning things around in the forthcoming second leg.
The margin stretched to 8-points following the next, however, as Kerr made it three wins out of three for him personally as he led home Wajtknechtin a time of 59.0.
With Bowtell following on in third the 4-2 settled the progressive score line at 31-23 with six races still to contest.
It was Kennett all the way in heat ten (60.1) but Eastbourne hopes of a 5-1 were snatched away on the run in to the finish line as Morris hunted down Morley and claimed the verdict right at the last knockings.
Nevertheless ,a 5-1 it would be in race eleven as Wood again turned on the style.
A rerun was required as Thomsen suffered a fall on the first turn but at the second time of asking it was the Eagles reserve who again drew the cheers as he blasted past Ostergaard on the run down the back straight to join Lawson at the front.
The team spirit within the Eastbourne camp was typified in no small way as Lawson eased aside on the final turn to allow his team mate to take the chequered flag and with that Arlington was once again was rocking. Time: 60.3.
With the margin now standing at 14-points (40-26) the Eagles were far better placed and looked set for first leg victory.
Newman would prove the spoiler in the next though supplying only the Brummies’ third heat winner of the afternoon in a time of 60.8.
Once again Brennan was all over his back wheel but just couldn’t make his industry count.
More surprising however was the downturn in form by Castagna who appeared a different prospect altogether than that of his earlier showings.
Brennan and Bowtell filled the minor places and the 14-point margin (now 43-29) was preserved.
Eastbourne were looking good for maximum points in heat thirteen as both Lawson and Kennett stormed either side of the fast starting Ostergaard down the back straight to take the lead.
The riders were called back under orders however as a traffic cone, used to secure the starting tapes in place, failed to be removed from the circuit, making it unsafe for the race to continue.
It would be Wajtknecht who proved the chief beneficiary of this incident and although Lawson again swept in thrilling, fence-scraping style, around the outside to bank the win, the Birmingham rider pegged Kennett in third place to limit the damage to a 4-2 in favour of the hosts. Time: 60.3.
Heat fourteen was to prove somewhat incident packed to say the least.
Firstly Shanes was ruled out following a fall on the second turn, one that also impeded Kerr.
A brace of falls then followed for Morris following early brushes with Wood.
The Eastbourne perspective would suggest that the Eagle was boxed in, the Birmingham viewpoint dictating that Morris held the line.
The referee’s stance decreed however that Morris was at fault and that he should join his team mate in the pits taking no further part.
The third rerun would prove a more sedate affair with Wood again taking the win (62.1) with Kerr close at hand, the resultant 5-0 seeing the home side breach the 50-point barrier.
With the erstwhile unbeaten duo of Lawson and Kerr nominated to contest the final races the chances that the Eagles would yet improve on their 21-point (52-31) advantage were considered high.
And so it transpired.
Although both Newman and Wajtknecht gave it their best shot, on this occasion they were no match for the fast starting Eastbourne duo.
The closing 5-1, with Lawson taking the win (60.5) from Kerr, saw the final score stand at 57-32.
A substantial margin of victory and one that must surely class the Sussex outfit as favourites to progress through to a quarter final date against Leicester with the second leg action set to resume at Perry Barr on May 15th.
Eagles: Richard Lawson 14+1(5), Lewis Kerr 13+2(5), Georgie Wood 9+1(4), Edward Kennett 9(4), Tom Brennan 6(4), Alfie Bowtell 4+1(4), Ben Morley 2+1(4). – 57
Brummies: James Shanes 8+1(5), Kyle Newman 7(5), Zach Wajtknecht 6+2(5), Paco Castagna 5(5), Ulrich Ostergaard 4(4), Ashley Morris 2(4), Tobias Thomsen 0(3). – 32
Image credits: Mike Hinves & Tiffani Graveling Photography