18th Nov, 2018

Play-offs near for Coventry

Craig Gibbons 14th Sep, 2018

COVENTRY closed in on the National League play-off places by taking maximum points from their double-header at Leicester on Sunday.

Second to sixth in the table are now covered by just three points, with the Europress Bees crucially denying Birmingham any league points in the first match, which they won 53-36.

Events of that meeting helped make the second match against Stoke a tighter affair, but the fact that the Potters took a league point as the Bees won 48-42 is not of any consequence to Coventry’s position.

The concern, though, will be over the fitness of their outstanding No.1 Connor Mountain who suffered a suspected dislocated shoulder in an horrific Heat 13 pile-up with Birmingham guest Danny Ayres.

Track conditions had caught several of the Brummies out, especially on bends three and four, and Ayres shot across Mountain’s path at the end of Heat One only for Mountain to read it and turn back for the win.

But in Heat 13 the two were much closer and as Ayres attempted to steam through on the inside he straightened and went straight into Mountain, sending the two riders down heavily.

Both were able to walk away but Ayres suffered an arm injury whilst Mountain was withdrawn from the remainder of the meeting.

The events of that race summed up the Brummies’ day overall, as Ben Morley had also come to grief in the first running of the race with Bees skipper Jon Armstrong smartly putting the bike down.

The visitors suffered assorted other woes with Leon Flint crashing on turn two in Heat Three after making a good start, Morley losing his steel shoe when second in Heat Six to hand Bees a 5-1 and Jenkins grinding to a halt on the last lap of Heat Seven when set for a 5-1 with Flint.

But even without all that, Bees were by far the better team on the day with a whirlwind start putting the Brummies under pressure as Coventry led 13-5 after three races.

Reserve Luke Harris starred with paid-13 and rode superbly to re-pass Jenkins in Heat Eight with the Bees far more comfortable using the outside line.

Harris then pulled off an excellent first bend in Heat 12 to again defeat Jenkins, and with Luke Ruddick supplying third place it was effectively the end of the Brummies’ hopes.

Mountain’s withdrawal led to Bees calling up Jenkins to guest against the Potters, and he got off to a good start by defeating Tom Perry in Heat One.

But with Ryan MacDonald falling having just moved into second place in the next race, it was a closer start to the meeting with only two points between the sides after six heats even though both Ruddick and Armstrong secured fine wins over Stoke skipper Max Clegg.

Bees picked up a 4-2 and 5-1 in Heats Seven and Eight and looked set to take full control when Jenkins led Heat Ten as Armstrong battled with David Wallinger – but just as Armstrong looked set to go through, Jenkins fell on the last bend and a probable Bees 5-1 became a Stoke 4-2.

The presence of Perry and Clegg in the final stages of the meeting kept Stoke in contention, but an expert job by Armstrong in Heat 11 saw him allow Harris to the front and keep Perry behind him for a key 5-1.

Even so, Stoke had got the score back to 41-37 with two races remaining – but Harris was the Bees’ hero in Heat 14 as he got out in front of Wallinger, who then fell under pressure from Jamie Halder to hand Coventry a match-clinching 5-1.

Bees now await dates for their final three meetings – home and away to bottom club Buxton and at home to unbeaten leaders Mildenhall.

Two wins from those meetings would almost certainly be enough for a play-off place.

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