3 December 2022
Ladies and Gentlemen we are proud to announce that for the third…
So now we know. Mildenhall stand between the Grant Henderson Tankers Bullets’ and a place in the NDL play-off final.
They will face the Fen Tigers only Saturday night – the second leg now confirmed for October 16 – in the semi-finals after an eventful Saturday night in the east Midlands finally settled the league’s finishing order.
In the final reckoning Berwick finished third with the Lion Cubs clinching top spot, their reward Oxford Chargers in the play-offs.
The Bullets began the evening with the possibility of finishing in any of the top three spots in the final table and were given a gift five points from a chaotic opening heat on a track which proved challenging, especially early on.
Home star Dan Thompson demolished the air fence in the first running of heat one and team-mate Max Perry hit the deck at the second time of asking. He got up and inexplicably walked back to the pits leaving Kyle Bickley and Ace Pijper – who had initially slowed anticipating the red lights coming back on – to cruise around unopposed.
Mason Watson, back at reserve following the latest green sheet averages, split the home pair in heat two but none of the riders looked comfortable and were struggling to turn the bikes which led to extensive track work, Connor Coles and Tom Spencer putting the Lions ahead as riders still looked uncertain of conditions.
Greg Blair was almost lifted off his bike as he tried to anticipate the start in four and instead was almost garrotted by the tapes, Joe Thompson taking the restart but Watson prevented another home 5-1 as he caught Mickie Simpson on the line.
Bickley was fast out of the traps again for a more conventional heat win second time out, indeed it would turn out to be the only point dropped by Coles all night.
Blair avoided the tapes in his second outing but was caught out by conditions on the second bend allowing Dan Thompson to overhaul him.
Luke Crang put a poor opening ride behind him to win a tight battle with Joe Thompson but the meeting effectively slipped away from the Bullets as they suffered back-to-back 1-5s.
Blair clipped Coles’ back wheel in heat nine, both riders ending up in an untidy tangle of men and machines and Spencer got the better of the Berwick man after a good battle in the rerun, Coles taking a comfortable win before Perry fought off a determined effort from Crang to follow Dan Thompson home in ten.
Bickley stopped the rot with a third consecutive race win despite the attentions of Joe Thompson but Coles and Simpson proved too strong for the Berwick pairing in heat 12.
Blair was in the wars again in 13, reacting well to lay down his bike and limit the damage after a puncture sent Joe Thompson sprawling, brother Dan inflicting the first defeat of the night on Bickley in the rerun although the Bullets’ number one seemed unlucky to be called back by the referee after a good start to the return.
Crang split the home pairing in the penultimate heat and he took advantage in 15 when Spencer fell as he packed in behind Coles, allowing the Berwick pairing a fortuitous share of the points.
After waiting almost four weeks to complete their fixtures the Bullets must now focus of the tough task of Mildenhall as they bid to end the season in style.
Team manager Gary Flint said: “You could tell that most of our boys haven’t had a competitive outing for almost a month but they battled well in difficult conditions.
“Reaching the play-offs was the aim when the season started but now we have to switch on and make sure that we battle for every point on Saturday night.
“Hopefully there will be a big crowd roaring the lads on in what has the makings of a classic.”
Cubs: Dan Thompson 9, Max Perry 3+1, Connor Coles 14, Tom Spencer 8+3, Joe Thompson 7, Vinnie Foord 4+2, Mickie Simpson 7+1
Bullets: Kyle Bickley 11, Ace Pijper 5+1, Ben Rathbone 0, Luke Crang 9, Greg Blair 5+2, Kieran Douglas 1, Mason Watson 6+1