PLAY-OFF FINAL FIRST LEG
Mildenhall Fen Tigers 59 Scunthorpe Saints 31
(Scunthorpe won 93-92 on aggregate)
KEVIN Jolly declared “speedway the winner” after a pulsating, yet ultimately tragically heart-breaking, National League play-off final.
The Mildenhall Fen Tigers co-promoter saw his side trounced in the first leg at the Scunthorpe Saints on Friday before mounting a phenomenal comeback in the reverse at West Row on Sunday.
Although his side were pegged back themselves when the Saints pulled off a 5-1 victory in the final heat, Jolly could not disguise the pride he felt at the Tigers’ achievements this season.
“It was a cracking meeting and hopefully everybody had one hell of a time,” he said. “From where we were before the season to where we are now is incredible, we wouldn’t have believed it could happen.
“It’s been absolutely tremendous and to be beaten yet still smile about it means so much because Mildenhall speedway is on a solid footing now and we are going to go from strength-to-strength.
“We have got tremendous support. Brilliant crowds are coming in and it is the supporters who have built it up again.
“The riders have done a grand job and the whole atmosphere is absolutely electric — what more could we ask for?”
Even when mechanical gremlins got the better of Scunthorpe number one Steve Worrall in heat one, few could have predicted the fightback Mildenhall were about to produce having crumbled to a disastrous defeat in the first leg on Friday night.
But the Tigers did not just claw their way back into contention, they roared to the front on aggregate with seven one-two finishes from the first eight heats.
While Steve Worrall continued to struggle, the Saints’ Ashley Birks crashed three times and even when they used their double-scoring tactical rides, they were unable to capitalise as Mark Baseby and Cameron Heeps, and Lewis Blackbird and Dan Halsey earned 5-1 maximums to avoid any points being double by the away side.
In that latter race — heat seven — Blackbird and Halsey produced a magnificent double pass on Richie Worrall to win the heat.
And when the Baseby brothers — Mark and Aaron — secured the seventh 5-1 result to sensationally put Mildenhall ahead on aggregate.
Although Scunthorpe briefly wrestled back the advantage when Birks became the visitors’ first heat winner of the evening, the sort of move that has turned 15-year-old Aussie Heeps into a National League phenomenon put the Tigers back in front in heat 10.
The Premier League-bound teenager was three abreast with Richie Worrall and Mark Baseby at one stage before racing around the outside of Worrall on the final lap to take a dramatic victory.
He immediately pressed home that advantage by joining forces with Halsey to take Mildenhall five points clear.
Two of the next three heats were shared, while the other ended with a 4-2 advantage to the Saints to set up a final-heat decider, with just a second place required for the Tigers to clinch their third National League double.
Yet there were still more twists to be had.
Blackbird was disqualified for tapping Richie Worrall and causing Birks to crash, leaving Heeps one-on-two against the Scunthorpe pair.
The young Aussie was beaten out of the gate, but proceeded to fight back against second-placed Worrall.
He got close once, but had to back out of the move, before going for an audacious pass out of the final bend.
A few more yards would have been enough for Heeps to snatch it, but instead just half a wheel separated the pair on the line, with second going to the Scunthorpe man.
Stunned silence surrounded Mildenhall Stadium for a brief couple of minutes before cheering and applause erupted from the home fans to show their appreciation for one of the most incredible meetings ever witnessed in West Suffolk and how proud they were of each and every rider that brought speedway back to Mildenhall this season with an almighty bang.
<PANEL — PLAY-OFF FINAL SECOND LEG>
Mildenhall Fen Tigers 59 (92)
Cameron Heeps (2*, 2*, 3, 3, 2, 1) = 13+2
Mark Baseby (3, 3, 3, 1, 0) = 10
Joe Jacobs (1, 2*. 0) = 3+1
Lewis Blackbird (3, 3, 3, 2, 1*, x) = 12+1
Jack Hargreaves R/R
Dan Halsey (3, 2*, 2*, 2*, 2, 2) = 13+3
Aaron Baseby (2*, 3, 2*, 1*) = 8+3
Scunthorpe Saints 31 (93)
Steve Worrall (r, r, 1, 1) = 2
Lee Smethills (1, 1, 0) = 2
Richie Worrall (2, 1^, 2, 3, 3, 2*) = 13+1
Gary Irving R/R
Ashley Birks (fx, fx, f^, 3, 3, 3) = 0
Adam Wrathall (1, 1, 0, 1, fx, fx) = 3
Stefan Nielsen (0, 1, 1, fx, 0) = 2
Ht 1: M Baseby, Heeps, Smethills, S Worrall (r), 5-1 (5-1, 38-63), 52.7s
Ht 2: Halsey, A Baseby, Wrathall, Nielsen, 5-1 (10-2, 43-64), 52.6s
Ht 3 (re-run): Blackbird, R Worrall, Jacobs, Birks (fx), 4-2 (14-4, 47-66), 52.0s
Ht 4 (re-run): A Baseby, Halsey, Nielsen, Birks (fx), 5-1 (19-5, 52-67), aw
Ht 5: Blackbird, Jacobs, Smethills, S Worrall (r), 5-1 (24-6, 57-68), 52.4s
Ht 6: M Baseby, Heeps, Wrathall, Birks (t, f), 5-1 (29-7, 62-69), 52.1s
Ht 7: Blackbird, Halsey, R Worrall (t), Wrathall, 5-1 (34-8, 67-70), 52.0s
Ht 8: M Baseby, A Baseby, Nielsen, Smethills, 5-1 (39-9, 72-71), 52.3s
Ht 9: Birks, Blackbird, Wrathall, Jacobs, 2-4 (41-13, 74-75), 52.0s
Ht 10: Heeps, R Worrall, M Baseby, Nielsen (fx), 4-2 (45-15, 78-77), 54.0s
Ht 11: Heeps, Halsey, S Worrall, Wrathall (fx), 5-1 (50-16, 83-78), aw
Ht 12 (re-run): R Worrall, Halsey, A Baseby, Wrathall (fx), 3-3 (53-19, 86-81), 52.4s
Ht 13: Birks, Heeps, S Worrall, M Baseby, 2-4 (55-23, 88-85), 52.3s
Ht 14: R Worrall, Halsey, Blackbird, Nielsen, 3-3 (58-26, 91-88), 52.7s
Ht 15 (re-run): Birks, R Worrall, Heeps, Blackbird (x), (59-31, 92-93), 52.8s
Heat: Result, heat score (overall score, aggregate score), winning time
f = fell, x = excluded, r = retired, t = tactical ride, aw = awarded, R/R = rider replacement