Armstrong stars as Fen Tigers win
Mildenhall Fen Tigers 47 Isle of Wight Islanders 42 (National League Trophy)
NEW dad Jon Armstrong led the Mildenhall Fen Tigers to victory in their National Trophy clash with the Isle of Wight, a result that was looking increasingly unlikely at the midway point, with the in-form visitors leading by three points and looking set to claim the win in a thriller that ebbed and flowed in both directions.
But celebrating the birth of his daughter Lois, the ‘Mighty Midget’ produced another big performance of 13+1 in what so far has been a hugely successful season after he sat out last year. The match had a now familiar script as, once again, the Fen Tigers made life difficult for themselves before digging deep and finally seeing off the Islanders in a last heat decider, after a meeting littered with thrills and and spills and plenty of exciting racing. One of the races of the day came right at the start, as Stefan Nielsen made a last gasp swoop to beat visiting Number One Tom Perry, exacting quick revenge after Perry had earlier claimed the Bronze Helmet from him.
When the potent pairing of teenager Josh Bates and the veteran Armstrong claimed a 5-1 in Heat 3 to give Mildenhall a six point lead, an easier afternoon than many expected looked on the cards. But next time out both skipper Danny Halsey and Nathan Stoneman were excluded gifting the Islanders a 5-0 heat win.
Bates and Armstrong hit back with a maximum of their own, before the meeting swung back towards the Islanders as they claimed an unexpected 5-1 after Nielsen broke the tapes and had to go off 15 metres in the re-run of of Heat 6. A 4-2 to the visitors followed as Halsey was excluded again, giving the Islanders the lead for the first time. With their teenage sensation Adam Ellis living up to his reputation, a difficult time seemed to be in store for Mildenhall. Then the ever-improving Aaron Baseby lowered Ellis’s colours in Heat 8, a crucial win that stopped the gap widening.
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But when Ellis came out in the next race and became the only visitor to beat Armstrong, things were starting to look ominous for the Fen men. But then up popped Nielsen and Baseby to steady the nerves with a 5-1 that put them back in front: 30-29.
Both sides had interval pep talks as the meeting reached the closing stages. A shared Heat 11 was followed by a 5-1 to the Isle of Wight, giving them a three point advantage with three races to go. Back came Mildenhall, this time Nielsen and Halsey putting their side a point in front. And then came Armstrong keeping Darryl Ritchings and Brendon Freemantle at bay before combining with Nielsen to claim the 5-1 that finally steered the Fen Tigers home.
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Afterwards Armstrong said, “That was a big win for us. We really had to dig deep to win today. They came here full of confidence and we had to work so hard to beat them, but we did. The team meeting at the interval geed us all up and helped us focus again for the last few races.”
The in-form veteran is delighted with the way his season is going. “It’s going better than I could have expected. I am really happy and enjoying myself. It’s great helping the younger lads too. They are coming to me for advice, which is nice.”
He is under no illusions about the task ahead, when Mildenhall visit the Isle of Wight on Tuesday in the return match. “It’ll be tough, no doubt about that, but if we start off by aiming to get a point and take it from there we are more than capable of surprising them.”
The Fen Tigers will be unchanged for the hastily rearranged fixture that was originally rained off last Tuesday.
Mildenhall Fen Tigers: 47
1. Stefan Nielsen 3 0 3 3 2’ = 11+1
2. Aaron Baseby 1 1 3 2’ = 7+1
3. Josh Bates 2’ 3 0 1 = 6+1
4. Jon Armstrong 3 2’ 2 3 3 = 13+1
5. Daniel Halsey (c) X X 2 2’ = 4+1
6. Liam Rumsey 2 2 1’ 0 = 5+1
7. Nathan Stoneman 1’ X 0 0 = 1+1
Isle of Wight Islanders: 42
1. Tom Perry 2 1 3 0 0 = 6
2. Danny Stoneman 0 0 0 = 0
3. Ben Hopwood (c) 1 3 1 3 = 8
4. Darryl Ritchings 0 1 0 1’ = 2+1
5. Tom Young = 3 3 1 1 1 = 9
6. Adam Ellis = 3 2’ 2 3 2’ = 12+2
7. Brandon Freemantle X 2’ 1’ 2 = 5+2