REPORT Thursday 30th September 2010, 10:00pm
We have been hammered many times at Sheffield, but we had won on our last two visits and expected that we would be able to hold on to a 28-point advantage in the second leg of the Premier Playoffs.
We were wrong! Sheffield recorded their highest score of the season as we found it impossible to stem the tide. We kept thinking that, in our usual manner, someone would come up with a ride to turn things our way, but on it went and it didn?t happen.
Pepe Franc was mysteriously absent with no explanation from the home promotion ? in fact he was in a Czech League match.
There was no real hint of problems as Ryan raced off with heat 1. Matthew held third for three laps and was buzzing round Skidmore for second, but with a man like Auty on your tail there is no scope for error. Matthew did make a small one on the first corner of the last lap. And the home no. 1 needed no second bidding to relegate Matthew to fourth.
We were well beaten in heat 2 with Ashley Morris pulling out early, and William Lawson an embarrassing distance behind Lambert and guest Ricky Wells.
Heat 3 didn?t look too promising either with Skidmore and Hall well clear, but with memories of his famous 2007 ride no doubt in his head, Kalle set off on a wide line. First he went past Hall, and then he caught Skidmore on the last corner for a sensational win. Kevin was a mile back.
Andrew Tully packed up early in heat 4 and William again posed no problems for the home pair.
If there?s trouble, call for Fisher. Another good gate, another easy win for Ryan, but Matthew missed the start and in spite of trying very hard, could not pick up anything. He fell on the last bend of lap 3.
Auty and Skidmore then headed Tully easily and at 24-12, we were not where we wanted to be.
Kalle took a TR off gate 4 but this time his attempts to ride out wide were blocked by Lambert and he finished well at the rear, with Kevin again making no impression either.
29-13 and it was starting to get serious. We looked like sharing heat 8 as Skidmore went ahead, but Lawson and Wethers held the minor places. William was so slow that Matthew went up to second, and lo and behold, Wells caught and passed William also ? a huge disappointment.
Andrew lifted at the start of heat 9 but burst past Lambert into second place down the back straight. He was close to Hall on the next bend when he came to grief! Another disaster, an easy home 5-1 in the rerun. 22 behind now, 6 up on aggregate.
At long last Wolbert and Katajisto gated in heat 10. In spite of a wobble Kevin went clear, but Kalle was caught by the ever-charging Auty. Still a 4-2 should help to settle the nerves.
Heat 11 was TR time for Ryan. He gated off the inside and led down the back straight, but Matthew got himself in a tangle with the home pair and came off at the back.
Rerun, Ashworth made the start and even though Ryan chased, he had to settle for a 4-point second place.
In heat 12 we suddenly saw a livelier William Lawson as he challenged Hall for the lead on the first lap. Hall soon went clear but Wolbert and Lawson comfortably kept Wells at the back this time ? only the second last place by a home rider.
We were 8 ahead on aggregate and now needed 6 points over the last three races to scrape through.
In heat 13 Josh Auty was fastest away with Ryan in second, chasing hard. He was comfortably placed for two points, but unfortunately chased too hard and came down. 52-28, it?s slipping away!
As you can imagine the Sheffield fans were now rampant and their riders totally committed. We were not comfortable at all but now looked to Kalle off gate 1 in heat 14.
He didn?t make a great start but managed to squeeze inside the Sheffield pair and edge in front down the back straight. Not for long though ? the Tigers had their wheels in line earlier and both Hall and Lambert passed for their SEVENTH 5-1 of the night. Against the League Champions!
The aggregate score was now 88-88 and we needed a miracle. Even if we shared the last race we were looking at Golden Heats.
They weren?t needed anyway. Ryan off gate 1 fell on the second bend trying to squeeze under Auty and it was all over. Kevin was well behind as Auty and Ashworth led, and the only problem the Tigers had was the display of the chequered flag after three laps! The only one who seemed to notice was Ashworth who slowed, which let Wolbert take a lucky second place.
That was enough though and Sheffield had won 92-90 on aggregate. The stadium erupted and we could only watch and regret all our lost opportunities.
It was the first time we have ever lost a Premier Playoff tie.