Jon Armstrong cemented his position as one of Mildenhall Fen Tigers’ all-time greats on Sunday after serving up a blockbuster finish to steer the club to a dramatic victory over the Plymouth Devils in the National Trophy final.
The West Row-based outfit celebrated their first piece of silverware since lifting the same trophy in 2014 after club captain Armstrong defeated Devils guest Josh Bailey in a run off after the scores were locked at 90-90.
“It was just a race and I treated it as that. A few years back I might have felt the pressure on me but I’ve learned the more relaxed you are the better you race,” said Armstrong.
“Down the back straight going into the bottom corner I thought I’m going to have to put my leg on your front wheel if you don’t mind.
“I wouldn’t want to race like that day in day out as your luck will run out but when it is on the line you have got to do it.
“It did get a bit tense and we had a bit of luck late on but it all worked out well in the end and I was determined not to lose the run off.”
Trailing by 18 points following a 54-36 reversal at the St Boniface Arena on Friday, the Fen Tigers made immediate inroads into that deficit after snatching a brace of 4-2s featuring victories for Jordan Jenkins in the opener and Drew Kemp in heat two.
A 5-1 in heat three led by guest Anders Rowe and backed up by Armstrong saw the visitors’ lead trimmed back to 10 points, and although the Devils secured a 4-2 of their own in heat five — fronted by guest Ben Morley — the hosts hit back with two 5-1s in heats six and eight, each thanks to Connor Mountain.
With the gap down to four points, the next twist happened in heat 11.
As Jenkins suffered a fall on the final bend of the last lap in his pursuit of Morley it handed the Devon outfit their sole 5-1 on the card.
Responding in tenacious fashion, Armstrong showed his will to win when picking off Henry Atkins on the line to clinch a crucial 4-2, before the visitors dished up their own advantage by the same scoreline in the next heat, leaving the Fen Tigers needing to 5-1s to force a run-off.
After Rowe and Kemp bagged the first in the penultimate contest, Mountain and Armstrong repeated the same score in the finale, despite the best efforts of Bailey.
With the Devils sending out Bailey to carry their hopes, Fen Tigers boss Rob Henry elected for the experience of Armstrong.
Dictating matters from the outset, the Fen Tigers stalwart covered every move Bailey had to offer to cross the line as the winner and send those in the stands into raptures.
Armstrong is now hoping that the club can carry forward their momentum when taking on the Belle Vue Colts at the National Speedway Stadium on Friday in the opening leg of their National League Knock-Out Cup semi final before Sunday’s second leg at West Row (3pm).
“We have got to be right on it from the off and have got to upset them in the first corner,” added Armstrong.
“If we can do that at Belle Vue and keep it close it all sets it up for an exciting meeting down here.”
Mildenhall Fen Tigers 56: Connor Mountain 14, Dan Halsey R/R, Jon Armstrong 12+4, Anders Rowe 8, Jordan Jenkins 8, Alex Spooner 2, Drew Kemp 10+4.
Plymouth ‘Devils’ 34: Ben Morley 11, Richard Andrews 3+1, Benji Compton R/R, Henry Atkins 7+1, Josh Bailey 11, Jason Edwards 2, Callum Walker 2.