Derek leads heat 8 Image Credit: Ron MacNeill

GAME ON FOR FRIDAY

NEWS Tuesday 27th August 2013, 11:29pm

by Mike Hunter

It's game on for Friday after the Scotwaste Monarchs with a weakened team held on for a 41-49 loss at Somerset in the first leg of the KO Cup semi final.

It was a result that took a lot of grit, with the team unbalanced by the absence of Claus Vissing (who hopes to be back for the second leg) and Josh Bates (who won't be).

The score of course is exactly the same as our recent home win over the Rebels in the league match at Armadale. So it's likely to be tight.

There was some good racing but the evening was rather long drawn-out, thanks partly to some crashes but also not enough use of the two-minute warning. There was also a big advantage for gates 2 and 4 over 1 and 3, which unbalanced the whole evening.

We won the toss and chose 1 and 3 in heat one, not knowing any better, which gave the Rebels the choice in heat 15. Naturally they chose 2 and 4, giving even Craig Cook little chance against Doyle and Grajczonek.

John Campbell said "Craig was more negative than I've ever known him about his chances in that last race, because of the gates."

However we still did well, pulling the score back to 44-40 with one race to go. From the home team's point of view they may well feel that they threw some chances away.

We lost a 5-1 in the opening race but almost got it back in heat two, in which Nielsen passed our guest Ben Morley late in the race. This set the pattern for the heats in which one team then the other had the advantage of the better gates.

Craig and Max gained a 5-1 in heat 5 over Morris (off gates 2 and 4) and so it went on. You had to take advantage of the better gates when you had them, and then try to salvage something when you didn't.

The first major tumble was in heat 8 as Derek led from the home riders, but Nielsen messed up the third bend and came down. Max following at the rear came off heavily, and damaged his machine.

However in the rerun (on a Cook machine) he cleverly came from third to first as Derek was pushed back. That 4-2 made the score 26-22 at that stage.

Jozsef's gating was poor throughout and we lost a heat 9 5-1 even off the better gates. We also lost a heat 10 4-2 off the better gates when Doyle came from the back and at 25-35 it was not looking good.

One or two things started to go our way - in heat 11 Craig moved at the start but it was Grajczomek who actually touched the tapes. That's the rules! We took a 4-2 with Josh doing well to get second place but Nielsen suffering a puncture late in the race.

Surprisingly Lambert gated in heat 12 but in trying to join him, Nick Morris brought down Derek Sneddon and we escaped with a 3-3. That heat might well have been rerun but the referee decided otherwise.

Cook had the gate advantage in heat 13 and led home Doyle and Grajczonek. What a pity the gates weren't more equal - we'd back Craig against anyone in that case.

Heat 14 went our way as Derek was smashed into the fence by a rash move off the second bend by Davies. Jozsef at last made a start in the rerun and although Derek was caught by Nielsen, he got second place back when Nielsen fell on the last corner.

That brought us to the last heat just 40-44 down but on the worst gates, with the inevitable consequence.

But it's still a good result in the circumstances. Derek had suffered from food poisoning overnight and performed very bravely for his 9+1. Max wrecked a bike and grazed his elbow in heat 8, while Jozsef was bemoaning his poor starts.

Theo rode steadily and scored well off the good gates, so in the end the tie is finely balanced. Friday should be a tremendous occasion.