Eastbourne Seagulls were dealt a hammer blow in their first match of the season tonight (May 19) against the Leicester Cubs, losing 47-43.
The match was all to play for until heat nine was half-way through. Henry Atkins suddenly pulled up at the start of lap 3 with a dislocated shoulder and took no further part in the meeting.
That allowed the home team to open up a 31-23 lead which left the Sussex side with a mountain to climb.
However, they battled on and salvaged one league point because they lost by fewer than seven points.
The Seagulls, powered by Save Thurrock Hammers Speedway, hope Atkins will only be on the sidelines for a few weeks.
He will be seeking medical advice on Thursday (May 20).
Seagulls No 1 Jake Knight turned in a masterclass on his return to the Eastbourne ranks, scoring 15 points from five rides.
Knight was an inspiration to the team who rallied when all seemed lost.
Team manager Will Pottinger said he was fairly confident the Seagulls would have ‘nicked” the victory had Atkins not been injured.
“It was a major handicap to lose a rider who had already won a couple of races. That was a major loss and one you cannot replace with due respect to the reserves.
“We battled on and managed to get a few heat advantages later in the meeting to bring the score closer and Jake did the business in the last heat.
“He rode fantastically well all night.
“Nathan Ablitt made a great contribution and he deserved heat 15. It was a bit of long shot to use him with Jake but it gives him an idea of what he will be up against in heat 15s in future.”
Pottinger said everyone would feel better for getting the first meeting out the way.
He added: “We have to be happy going home with a point, given the circumstances. It was well deserved.”
The Seagulls will have to use rider replacement for Atkins on Saturday when they face the Newcastle Gems art Arlington Stadium as the second match of a double header.
Leicester: Dan Thompson 14 (6 rides), Joe Thompson 12+1 (5), Joe Lawlor 8+1 (4), Tom Spencer 7+4 (5), James Chattin 4+1 (5), Kai Ward 2+1 (5).
Eastbourne: Jake Knight 15 (5), Nathan Ablitt 11+1 (7), Henry Atkins 6 (3), Chad Wirtzfeld 5 (4), Richard Andrews 4+1 (4), Connor King 1+1 (3), Nick Laurence 1 (4).
Here’s how Kevin Ling saw the match unfold at the Paul Chapman and Sons Arena.
Ht 1: Jake Knight makes a super start to lead all the way from Joe Lawlor. Connor King was pressing James Chattin but he spun round entering the first bend of lap 2 and retired. 3-3, 62.44
Ht 2: Good gate from Nick Laurence but Chattin led into first bend – Nathan Ablitt quickly on terms and moved into lead down back straight. Kai Ward fended off Nick all the way as Nathan went on for a good win. 3-3, 6-6, 66.43
Ht 3: Joe Thompson nipped sharply out of the start but Richard pressing in the early part – Tom Spencer led from Chad Wirtzfeld, so a 4-2 position for the Cubs – unfortunately though Richard took it wide on the second turn off lap three and overcooked it – quickly up and seemingly okay but race stopped and Richard excluded. Race awarded 5-1 to the Cubs 11-7 – no time
Ht 4: Great gate by Henry Atkins to lead Dan Thompson down back straight – Nathan tucking in for a comfortable third – Dan kept pressing and there was little between them at the chequered flag but Henry got the verdict. 2-4, 13-11. 63.10
Ht 5: Another fine start and ride by Jake – has the beating of Joe T. from tapes to flag. Connor trying hard but couldn’t quite get the measure of Spencer. 3-3 -6-14 62.59
Ht 6: Another flying start from Henry to leave Lawlor chasing shadows, Spencer comfortable in third though Slick Nick never gave up the chase. 3-3, 19-17, 62.75
Heat 7: Gate to flag victory for Dan T. A 3-3 looking the likely outcome again but Richard suffered another tumble while holding second – Chad continued to fend off Ward with Richard having remounted but try though he might he couldn’t catch the Cubs reserve. 4-2 23-19 62.97
Ht 8: Dan T. smartly out of the traps to deny Nathan but Connor claims his first point as a Seagull with a fine effort to keep Chattin at bay. 3-3 26-22 62.72
Ht 9: Henry quick out of the traps but Lawlor that bit quicker and he leads the early running – Spencer third ahead of Nick. Disaster soon to strike as Henry suddenly pulls up entering lap three – that was how it stayed as a 5-1 to the Cubs who now lead 31-23. 62.28.
I’ll admit I thought it was a machinery breakdown that cost Henry – trackside reports now suggest that he popped his shoulder and is now being attended to by the paramedics. Fingers crossed all will soon be well for Henry who had been flying up to now.
Ian Jordan has advised Henry’s dislocated shoulder has been popped back in. He wants to continue but situation is being weighed up.
Announced that Henry Atkins will take no further part in the meeting.
Heat 10: A fine display of team riding as Lawlor tried to shepherd his partner Chattin to maximum points – Richard tenacious as ever with the order changing throughout the race. Cubs looked on for the 5-1 but Richard took second from Chattin on the line – Lawlor bagging the win 4-2. 35-25 66.94. Seagulls with maybe not a mountain but a steep incline to surmount.
Ht 11 Jake got the drop this time and, despite a little turbulence on bend 4 of lap 2, he powered to his third win in front of Dan T. Nathan comfortable in third ahead of Chattin so Seagulls pull back 2-points courtesy of the 4-2, 37-29, 62.81.
The Cubs Chattin withdrew fro the meeting at this point after falling in an accidental melee with Richard Andrews at the end of heat ten.
Ht 12 Joe takes the win from Chad with Nathan in third – ward pulls his cut out at the start 3-3 40-32, 63.56.
Ht 13: Another fine win for Jake who sees off the combined efforts of Dan T and Lawlor – a big ask for Nick needless to say 3-3 43-35 62.91.
Heat 14: Nathan led the running in 14 ahead of Spencer with Richard in third but the race was brought to a sudden halt as Ward took a tumble on the final bend of lap one – thankfully he is straight up and seemingly okay. He’s excluded and rerun with three riders only. Re-run: Well Seagulls show their teeth (do beaks have teeth? ) as Nathan takes the win and Richard fights his way through from the back to claim the much needed 5-1 that brings the difference to just 4-points with one heat remaining 1-5 44-40 65.25
Heat 15: Jake peerless once again as he completes a glorious 15-point maximum – the match spoils belonged to the hosts however as Dan then Joe tucked in for the 3-3 – Nathan had them within his sights but slowed on the run in to lap three and with that the match belonged to Leicester 3-3 47-43 time. 63.31.
Image credit: Mike Hinves