Eastbourne snatched a narrow victory on Saturday (August 31) night over Sheffield with a maximum heat win in the last race of the evening.
Richard Lawson and Lewi Kerr teamed up to slam in the 5-1 to see the Fineprint Eagles home 46-44 in their Championship league match against the South Yorkshire outfit.
They left Justin Sedgmen and Danny King trailing in their wake after making extremely fast starts.
The match had been in the balance throughout with the visitors seemingly having the edge, especially through free-scoring reserve, American Broc Nicol, who went on to net 17 points from seven rides.
The Eagles were weakened by the loss of Georgie Wood, serving a 28-day ban, and the loss of Alfie Bowtell with a knee injury.
They gave Charlie Brooks, one of last year’s National League double winners, his Championship debut and used the rider replacement facility to cover for Wood.
This inevitably put a huge strain on the top three of Edward Kennett, Lawson and Kerr who rose to the challenge with good backing from Kyle Newman.
Heat 13 was a turning point when the visitors’ Kyle Howarth crashed when in second place.
He suffered a dislocated shoulder and was taken to hospital by ambulance.
Eagles captain Edward Kennett aggravated an arm injury and withdrew from the meeting after putting his bike down to avoid the stricken riders in front of him.
The race was awarded as an Eastbourne a 4-2 heat win to tie the scores at 39 all.
However, Sheffield put their noses in front again with a 4-2 in heat 14 but with Howarth injured they did not have the firepower to defeat the flying Eagles’ duo in the final heat .
Kerr said he did not have time to absorb any pressure before heat 15 because he had ridden in the previous heat.
“I just came in and got my bike ready and went out again.
“I made a pretty good start from gate one, saw Richard (Lawson) was there so I kerbed it and it was pretty simple from then,” he said.
“I am really happy for the promotion and the fans.”
Joint team manager Trevor Geer said: “ I always knew this meeting was going to be tough.
“We were struggling with our team and we knew we would be weak at reserve but they all came good in the end.
“And, that was a fanatic way to finish. I didn’t think they would get it over Danny King like that – but they did.
“It was an absolutely fantastic result and meeting.”
EASTBOURNE 46: Richard Lawson 13+1, Lewis Kerr 12, Edward Kennett 9, Kyle Newman 8+3, Jason Edwards 4+2, Charlie Brooks 0, Georgie Wood r/r.
SHEFFIELD 44: Broc Nicol 17, Danny King 8+1, Justin Sedgmen 7+1, Kyle Howarth 7, Todd Kurtz 3+1, Zaine Kennedy 2+1, Josh MacDonald 0.
The Kevin Ling verdict
Eastbourne Fineprint Eagles defied all the odds to win yet another titanic speedway tussle at Arlington stadium on Saturday night.
The Sussex venue was raised to the very rafters as home heroes Lewi Kerr and Richard Lawson sped away in the final race of the night to secure maximum points and the 5-1 that they needed to overturn a 2-point deficit and secure a last gasp 46-44 victory – one that broke the hearts of the visiting Sheffield Tigers.
The Tigers entered the clash at full strength, and as circumstances allowed, they had the added bonus of tracking Broc Nicol, newly returned to the side in the potentially advantageous number seven berth.
The American had previously demonstrated just what he was capable at Arlington with a superbly crafted 15-points in a guest outing for Scunthorpe in mid-June.
The Yorkshire outfit knew just what they needed from the contest and that was to win, and to win by as big a margin as possible with a place in the end of season Play Off still within their grasp as they continue to vie with both Redcar and Somerset to make it into the final four.
The hosts by contrast had experienced something of a troubled week and were somewhat on the back foot as they headed into the encounter reeling on two counts:
One: the 28-day suspension imposed on Georgie Wood, oft so dependable around his home circuit for missing meetings for his National Development League side Isle of Wight;
Two: the news that their bid to recruit Danyon Hume to ride at reserve as a replacement for injury sidelined Alfie Bowtell had been turned down, at least temporarily by the sport’s governing body.
The effect of latter setback witnessed a baptism of fire in the Championship for former Eagle Charlie Brooks.
He was not disgraced in any way but it was always going to be a little excessive to expect any sort of return from the youngster at this stage of his development in the sport.
Equally, with Jason Edwards still finding his feet at this level (albeit finding them very well), with these two having to cover the bulk of the usually prolific (at Arlington) Wood’s rides it was easy to see that the home side were effectively up against it.
Nicol more than did his job for Sheffield and proved to have every bit of the impact expected as he amassed a colossal 17-points from the lower end.
However, a succession of dropped points when in scoring positions cost Tigers dear and would ultimately play into Eastbourne’s hands.
Indeed the last of these incidents came at a huge cost as Kyle Howarth, who had looked so impressive with two wins in the early part crashed out in alarming fashion as he gave chase to Lawson in heat thirteen.
The rider unfortunately ended his evening leaving the circuit in an ambulance bound for hospital, suffering with a dislocated shoulder.
Indeed his misfortune had something of a domino effect.
Eastbourne also suffered as Edward Kennett – along with Danny King having laid down their machines in textbook fashion in order to avoid the stricken Howarth – was also forced to withdraw from the remainder of the fixture.
An elbow injury – that also curtailed his involvement for Ipswich away to Swindon in midweek – was aggravated, also giving Eagles injury concerns heading into their important Knockout Cup Semi-final against the Redcar Bears next weekend.
The match began with a flurry of exchanges and fluctuating fortunes.
Eastbourne first seizing the initiative only to have it overturned and then seizing it back again.
The mid part of the meeting witnessed no fewer than seven consecutive 3-3s between heats five and eleven as the teams remained deadlocked.
Then, with the contest moving towards a conclusion, it appeared that the visitors would indeed seize the win they so badly needed with a brace of 4-2s in heats twelve and fourteen, either side of a similar reply from the hosts in that fated thirteenth race.
Heat one witnessed the first moment of calamity for the Tigers as Josh MacDonald crashed out on the fourth bend of lap two while holding a seemingly comfortable third place at the expense of Edwards.
There would be no stopping Kennett as he romped to victory over former British Champion King (winning time 58.1) with MacDonald having cleared the circuit, Edwards coming home unchallenged to secure the odd point and an opening 4-2 for the Eagles.
It was a somewhat different story in the second as the ‘Broc Nicol show’ began in earnest.
The Californian powered away for an untroubled win but he was joined in that by partner Zaine Kennedy, the pair between them recording maximum points (winning time 59.3).
Brooks proved an early faller and wild and woolly might best describe Kennedy in his opening ride and, although Edwards looked to have the speed to match the Australian, but whichever line he took his opponent always seemed to be in his path.
The consequent 5-1 saw Sheffield take the lead 7-5 but this was swiftly overturned in the next as Kerr and Kyle Newman, looking most impressive yet again combined for a 5-1 of their own. With Kerr leading heat three from the off.
Newman demonstrated a great pass on the final bend of lap one to leave both Todd Kurtz and Justin Sedgmen trailing and with that the Eagles were back in front, the progressive score line moving to 10-8 (winning time 58.1).
It was level pegging once again following race four as Nicol produced another superb effort to this time deny Lawson. Edwards replaced Brooks and did well to fend Howarth off for two laps but the visiting rider’s experience would eventually pay off. No denying Nicol and with him taking the chequered flag in a time of 58.2 the scores now stood at 12-points apiece.
King looked extremely fast in winning heat five ahead of Kerr and Newman (winning time 57.3) but with MacDonald again a faller (he remounted but retired from the race on the third lap) the points remained shared as indeed they would in each of the next six races.
Howarth joined the party in the sixth and realised a fine win at the expense of Kennett, although the race was never destined to complete four laps. Kennedy was again a fast starter and together the Sheffield pair looked to be heading for maximum points.
Kennett wasn’t about to settle for that, however, and he continued to put pressure on the Australian, his pass on him of the third bend of lap two seeing the visitor part company with his machine.
No contact appeared evident and that was indeed how referee Barbara Horley concluded and so the race was duly awarded as a 3-3 with the Tigers reserve having been disqualified.
Lawson was an all the winner of heat seven (winning time 59.3) ahead of both Sedgmen and Kurtz and with that the scores moved to 21-21.
Some might have expected Kennedy to be preferred over MacDonald for the visitors in the eighth but it was not to be.
Newman took the rider replacement outing while Edwards replaced Brooks in a reserve switch for Eastbourne.
Nicol continued undaunted however making it three wins out of three but with MacDonald suffering his third fall of the night, burying himself into the air fence on bend three of the third lap – thankfully swiftly up and okay – the race was duly awarded once more and the scores now stood at 24-24.
Howarth produced a superb move to scorch around Kerr out of bend two on the opening lap of heat nine and he too recorded a second victory (winning time 58.4).
With Kennedy again a faller (bend four, lap three) this left Kerr and Newman to fill the minor places and once again the scores remained deadlocked, now 27-27.
Heat ten and finally Nicol had his colours lowered following a determined drive from Kennett (winning time 58.6), this time it was the American together with Sedgmen who had the beating of Edwards and with two thirds of the match now down there was still nothing between the sides, the scores resting at 30-points apiece heading into the brief interval.
Lawson kept the Eastbourne flag flying to win the eleventh (winning time 58.8) but with Nicol replacing MacDonald, this time he and King would always have the beating of Brooks and with that the match still remained deadlocked, now 33-33.
Sheffield seized the initiative in heat 12 as Sedgmen got the gate and Nicol did his usual to join him at the front in the 5-1 position. A fantastic ride from Newman however was enough to deny the American, a bold pass on bend two of lap three although he didn’t have the wheels to catch Sedgman and suddenly it was advantage Tigers as the sides separated, a 4-2 the score and 37-35 to the visitors with three races left to run (winning time 59.4).
The match was certainly building up to a thrilling conclusion but with Lawson leading the field in race thirteen, Howarth’s fall and subsequent, unfortunate ambulance ride would result in an extended delay.
With the Sheffield rider disqualified as the cause of the stoppage, the 4-2 was awarded to the hosts with Lawson taking the win and King given second as he led Kennett at the time and thus parity (39-39) was restored.
With both Howarth and Kennett now withdrawn from the remainder of the contest one wondered how it all might unfold.
It seemed that the visitors might have the better of things as Nicol and Kurtz gated to lead Kerr in the penultimate race.
Kurtz had largely failed to fire up to then but this time he looked on the pace, somewhat unfortunately for the hosts.
Nicol completed his seventh outing with another win (winning time 59.4) but Kerr did at least limit the impact by coming from the back to get the better of Kurtz in another great pass on the second bend of lap three.
Sheffield went into that last race holding the two point lead and nominating King and Sedgmen as their combatants (by now Nicol had used up his full quota of rides) while it was the dependable Lawson and Kerr duo whom the Eagles opted for.
Well the visitors went in holding the lead but it was the home side, following a pulsating final four laps, who came out of it with the 2-point advantage in hand, Lawson and Kerr, the former throttling back on the approach to allow the latter the win, riding side by side to seize the 5-1 and bring the curtain, and the house down on another thrilling Arlington encounter, the final score reading Eastbourne 46, Sheffield 44 (winning time 59.7)
Eagles: Richard Lawson 13+1(5), Lewis Kerr 12(5), Edward Kennett 9(4). Kyle Newman 8+3(5), Jason Edwards 4+2(7), Charlie Brooks (Guest for Alfie Bowtell) 0(4), Rider Replacement for Georgie Wood. – 46
Tigers : Broc Nicol 17(7), Danny King 8+1(5), Justin Sedgemen 7+1(5), Kyle Howarth 7(4), Todd Kurtz 3+1(3), Zaine Kennedy 2+1(3), Josh MacDonald 0(3). – 44
Images: Mike Hinves and Tiffani Graveling Photography