Hammers fail to take advantage

Elite League BEastbourne Eagles 50 Lakeside Hammers 43LAKESIDE Hammers were unable to take advantage of their flexible additional ride at Eastbourne.

Elite League B

Eastbourne Eagles 50 Lakeside Hammers 43

LAKESIDE Hammers were unable to take advantage of their flexible additional ride at Eastbourne.

The Essex side went into Saturday's match without new signing Piotr Swiderski and Jonas Davidsson, with both riders away competing in their National Finals.

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Poole's Bjarne Pedersen was brought in as a guest for Davidsson, rider replacement was used for Swiderski which meant that this allowed anyone, except Lee Richardson, to take an additional ride.

Eastbourne were also missing two riders - the banned Lewis Bridger and the long term absentee David Norris. Swindon's Travis McGowan was brought is as a guest for Norris while they used R/R at No.1 for Bridger.

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The Hammers camp believed that their changes looked stronger than the Eagles, however, it was obvious that the Hammers were going to miss Adam Shields.

The match started with a good win from Lee Richardson in the opening heat but Phil Morris finished at the back in a shared heat.

Heat two was also shared with Gustafsson taking the win but Hammers asset Ricky Kling off the pace at the back. Following this heat there was an extensive track grade as it was clear that the slick conditions were not to the liking of the home team. In fact track grading seemed to take place every couple of heats in the early stages of the match.

The Eagles strong pairing of Watt and Woodward took a 5-1 in heat three with Kauko Nieminen having machine problems at the back - he changed to his second bike for the remainder of the meeting.

Heat four was a turning point in the match. At the first time of asking Lukas Dryml took the Hammers guest so wide on the 1st/2nd bend that he had no option but to bale out and hit the air fence. Dryml was correctly disqualified from the heat. In the re-run Pedersen was at the wrong end again of some hard riding when Kling, who came off gate one, went very wide. Pedersen avoided falling but was unable to catch the Eagles rider having throttled off. The resultant 3-3 kept the Eagles four points in front.

Richardson claimed his second win in the next heat and with Nieminen holding off Woodward the Hammers reduced the deficit to two points.

Pedersen and Dryml met again in heat six. The Hammers camp were left wondering whether the Eagles disliked Pedersen or Poole riders when Dryml wiped out Pedersen on the exit to the fourth bend. Once again the referee correctly disqualified Dryml. After treatment on the track Pedersen was eventually able to get to his feet and slowly walk back to the pits. His bike was apparently written off and Pedersen was feeling decidedly second hand.

With the two minutes already running Bjarne courageously managed to get to the start in time although it was apparent to most that he was struggling. That turned out to be the case as he trailed in behind Phil Morris to claim a point in a shared heat.

Dryml came out again in heat seven and this time he managed to avoid any incidents and claimed the heat win for the Eagles. Joonas Kylmakorpi held on for second place but Gustafsson kept Nieminen at the back to increase the home side's lead back to four points.

A lightning start by Kling assisted by a good ride from McGowan gave the Eagles a 5-1 in heat eight over a disappointing Hammers pairing of Kylmakorpi and Nieminen.

Perdesen was due out in heat nine but was being seen by the medics and, therefore, failed to make the two minutes. He was replaced by reserve Robson who alongside fellow reserve Morris finished on the wrong end of another 5-1 over the Eagles' Australian pairing of Watt and Woodward.

With the Hammers 12 points behind, stand-in team manager Alan Sargent (after consulting with regular boss Jon Cook) gave JK a T/R ride in the next heat. It looked as if Watt was going to take the win but he came to a halt when in a clear lead with reported fuel problems. This gave the hammers an 8-1 as McGowan was at the back behind JK and Nieminen. That seemed to bring the Hammers back into the match as the Eagles lead had reduced to five points.

The Hammers camp knew that it was still going to be difficult as Pedersen was withdrawn from the meeting on medical advise. He was due to take the R/R ride in heat 11 and a programmed ride in heat 13 plus probably joining Lee in the nominated final heat.

With Pedersen out his rides could only be covered by the Hammers' reserves. However, the Eagles lead reduced still further to three when Lee rode a superb race to win heat 11 with Robbo, taking the R/R ride, also doing well to keep Gustafsson at the back.

The Eagles increased their lead to seven points when Watt and Kling got a 5-1 over Phil and Kauko in heat 12. Nieminen again seemed to lack speed and Morris passed him to take the battle on with the Eagles duo. Heat 13 was shared thanks to another win from Richardson.

The Hammers needed 5-1s from both of the final two heats for the win but, more realistically, needed to reduce the deficit by at least one point to claim an important league point.

Things did not look good for the Hammers, or their travelling supporters, when Woodward and Gustafsson led heat 14 but Robbo slid off on the second bend of lap two. The referee stopped the heat and, astonishingly awarded the race 5-1 to the Eagles. Following long conversations with the official when he was advised that he couldn't award the heat as the rules clearly state that riders have to complete at least two full laps before a heat could be awarded, the decision was eventually made for the heat to be re-run with Robbo being disqualified as the cause of the stoppage.

This decision, although correct, did not go down well with the home support but it gave the Hammers the opportunity of getting something out of the meeting. A fired up JK duly claimed the win to take it to a last heat decider for the extra league point.

The toss of the coin for gate positions was vital as gate one had produced the heat winners in four of the previous five heats.

Unfortunately for the Hammers, Richardson lost the toss and, as expected, the Eagles took gates one and three. What was somewhat surprising, however, was that they nominated their fast starting reserve Ricky Kling to come of the advantageous gate one with Watt off three. Richardson took gate two and JK four for the Hammers.

The plan was for Richardson to get his fifth win and give him a five ride full maximum and JK to keep in front of Kling. Richardson got to the front but following a poor start for JK he messed up the exit to the fourth bend to put him some distance behind Kling at the back. The heat finished that way and the resultant 3-3 meant that the Hammers came away with nothing.

In conclusion, the turning point was the withdrawal of the Hammers guest and Arlington track expert Pedersen following him being take off twice by Dryml. However, apart from Lee Richardson, who was magnificent, and, to a lesser extent Kylmakorpi, the remaining Hammers riders were unable to gain a heat win between them.

Morris and Robson managed paid 11 points between then but took them 12 rides to achieve that. Kauko Nieminen struggled with his equipment and his tally of paid four points was below expectations. It was a meeting that the Hammers could (or should) have won but at the very least claimed one league point but it was not to be.

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