||Last Updated: Apr 7th, 2016 - 15:13:32
The long awaited return of top flight Cycle Speedway league racing made a thrilling comeback to the city last Sunday afternoon as Coventry edged out Ipswich 100-94 in a grandstand finish at Hearsall Common.
Three continuous daysí work by club volunteers ensured the Hearsall Common track and surrounds were at their pristine best. Although the weather was cold and threatening, the rain held off and a sizable crowd turned out to see new-look Coventry tackle the East Anglian giants.
And, to set the seal on months of behind the scenes preparations and team building, Coventry just held on in the later stages as the two teams served up a bone-charring encounter.
Several of the vastly re-enforced Coventry team were visibly nervous as the minutes ticked down to starting time and it fell to local hero Myke Grimes, calm and assured, to win heat one and to be recorded as Coventry`s first Elite league heat winner.
Further signs of Coventry nerves were evident in heat 2, when Coventry`s major winter signing Andy Angell, the three times British champion, moved at the starting gate and was excluded as Ipswich levelled.
Grimes, reveling in the occasion, powered from the gate in heat 4 for another win. However, it was new signing Ben Higham, whose brilliant team riding eventually swung the match Coventry`s way, who took a well-crafted second place as Coventry led by four points.
Australian ace Bobby McMillan fought off several attacks to win heat 5 and when Polish World junior number 2 Michal Sassek, who had jetted into the UK the previous evening for his Coventry debut, thundered home for his maiden Hearsall Common victory in heat 6, Coventry were taking control.
Another debutant Chris Parish superbly held-on to take heat 8, and with Angell taking third, Coventry pulled further ahead. Another sparkling Sassek win put Coventry 48-39 ahead by the half way stage, heat 10, as a comfortable home win appeared on the cards.
Angell, who was on the receiving end of several physical exchanges, had two rare last places and this helped Ipswich, who came out fighting early in the second period, to sensationally close the gap with a superb run of heat successes.
The rampant East Anglians, brilliantly led by pint sized Australian dynamo Cody Chadwick, then silenced the home crowd by taking the lead by a single point after a hectic heat 15 as tension reached fever pitched.
However, Coventry`s powerful top end strength of Grimes, McMillan and the flying Pole Sassek, reasserted the home sides control in the final heats and the Herasll Common men held on in a grandstand finish.
Whilst their three heat leaders scored heavily, it was unsung hero Higham who was named `man of the match`. He scored crucial points, often team riding for vital third places and it was his outstanding contribution that saw Coventry home.
Overall, it was a day Coventry will take great heart from. Angell will never have such a low scoring match again and Parish and fellow northerner Jake Read failed to record the points their efforts deserved.
But it was the occasion itself that the Coventry club can be most satisfied with. They at last rejoined the top tier Elite League, completing a long road back to the top after the sport had ceased to exist in the city between 2007 and 2011.
Never since the club was originally formed, in 1978, has such a high watermark now been reached, with record numbers of riders, soaring sponsorship levels and their highest levels of volunteers and officials in their history.
Coventry point scorers:
Myke Grimes 21, Bobby McMillan 20, Michal Sassek 16, Ben Higham 14, Chris Parish 11, Jake Read 10, Andy Angell 7, Mike Baldock 2, Mason Phillips 1. Adam Watson and Dan Drewett did not ride.
Coventry are next in Elite league action on Sunday 17th April, when they travel to south coast glamour club Poole.
The Hearsall Common outfit race their first Midland League match of the season tomorrow (Sunday 10th April), when they visit Wednesfield Dragons at Ashmore Park, Wolverhampton, commencing at 2pm.
Coventry team: 1 Matt Hambidge 2 Bobby McMillan 3 Jake Slatter 4 Myke Grimes 5 Dan Drewett 6 Mason Phillips 7 Matt Lawrence 8 Ollie Morris.
The Brandon Bees opened the 2016 season at their refurbished Brandon Road Playing Fields, Bretford, track last Tuesday evening, losing out 75-55 to a more experienced Leicester team in an entertaining Midland League challenge.
Brandon point scorers:
Matt Lawrence 14, Ben Wells 13, Matt Hambidge 10, Jack Reynolds 8, Wyatt Jacobs 6 and Joe Andrews 4.
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