Hammers in the driving seat

Elite League KO Cup FinalLakeside Hammers 59 Coventry Bees 36THE Hammers signed off their 2009 home campaign with this superb opening leg victory over Coventry in the Elite League Knockout Cup final.

Elite League KO Cup Final

Lakeside Hammers 59 Coventry Bees 36

THE Hammers signed off their 2009 home campaign with this superb opening leg victory over Coventry in the Elite League Knockout Cup final.

The home team finished proceedings in scintillating form, stinging their rivals with a run of four consecutive 5-1s over the course of the final four races to extend their first leg lead from seven points to 23.

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The Hammers were led by a maximum performance from captain Adam Shields, but this was very much a team effort with many notable performances. Reserve Stuart Robson was in determined mood throughout against his former club and was unbeaten barring a tumble that he took during heat eight.

Early signs were promising when Lakeside opened with a couple of 4-2s, both of which were re-run after first turn tumbles. Jonas Davidsson came from behind to pass Oliver Allen in heat three and force a shared race and Shields barged himself to the front of heat four alongside Robson to move the Hammers into an eight point lead.

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British star Chris Harris had a nightmare meeting and went backwards in heat five with both Davidsson and Kauko Nieminen finding a way past to slam home another Hammers 5-1.

Bees held off using a tactical move in heat six as Richardson and Kylmakorpi took a 4-2 over Schlein, preferring to nominate Ed Kennett in heat seven. Kennett was just edged out at the first turn by Shields and had to settle for second place, allowing Bees team boss Peter Oakes to repeat the move just one heat later when tactically nominating lively Ben Barker.

Barker made the most of Bees' second chance to storm past Kylmakorpi, who in turn was also overhauled by the impressive Josh Auty as Coventry hit back with an 8-1 to reduce the overall meeting deficit to just five points.

Davidsson, who has had such a superb season for the Hammers and was named as "rider of the year" at the end of the meeting, came to the fore again in heat nine to lead a 4-2 with Nieminen.

What was to unfold over the closing few heats was somewhat unexpected, though, as Coventry's anticipated charge never materialised and Kennett's race win in heat 10 was the second and last victory that the Bees would taste.

Super "Robbo" was the hero of the hour in two of the final four races, joining Nieminen for a maximum over Allen in heat 12 and teaming up with Davidsson in a classic heat fourteen during which both Hammers passed Kennett within a lap after the Coventry man had made the better start.

The final race of the 2009 home season was left in the capable hands of Shields and Richardson, who repeated their 5-1 from heat 13 with another to send fans wild on the terraces and secure that 23 point lead for their team.

It's certainly presents a very healthy proposition and leaves the Essex men in great shape going into the second leg of the final, which is to be held at Coventry's Brandon stadium on Friday 23.

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