Star man Stefan stamps his mark on another final thriller

RETURNING FROM BATTLE: A muddied, battered and bruised Stefan Nielsen is delighted after helping the Mildenhall Fen Tigers to the National League title

RETURNING FROM BATTLE: A muddied, battered and bruised Stefan Nielsen is delighted after helping the Mildenhall Fen Tigers to the National League title

0
Have your say

Teary-eyed Stefan Nielsen endured the full rollercoaster of emotions as the Mildenhall Fen Tigers won the National League on Wednesday.

The Brandon-based Dane won the National League at the expense of Mildenhall last year and snatched it by the same one-point margin 12 months on.

But a firey end to his bike in heat 11 appeared as if it was going to cost the Suffolk club the title again, but Nielsen picked himself up from a final-heat crash with Adam Roynon to clinch the vital final point in the rerun.

“It’s amazing to nick it by one point with Scunthorpe last year and then do the same with Mildenhall this year — I couldn’t have asked for a better two seasons,” said Nielsen. “This year has been absolutely amazing with all the help I’ve had from (Tigers co-promoter and former world champion) Michael Lee and my mechanic Dave Trueman.

“Everyone has been brilliant — there is such a great team spirit in the camp with everyone cheering everyone on and helping each other out.”

Trailing by 14 points from Tuesday night’s first leg, conditions were far from ideal at the Norfolk Arena in King’s Lynn for Mildenhall’s ‘home’ leg — switched there from West Row, which was unrideable.

Four of the opening five heats were shared, but Nielsen teamed up with Josh Bates for a maximum 5-1 score in heat four to bring the aggregate gap down to 10.

Still trailing by 10 ahead of heat eight, it took three tremendous one-two finishes in a row to turn the match on its head and put the Tigers in front.

Captain Lewis Blackbird, making a surprise return from a broken collarbone, led home two of them — ahead of Bates and Garrity — with Dan Halsey winning the other from Joe Jacobs.

However, the Tigers’ prospects took a nosedive in heat 11, with Nielsen’s chain breaking while holding off Roynon, causing him to grind to a halt.

With Roynon in the double-scoring black-and-white helmet, Mildenhall suddenly found themselves down by five points with four heats to race.

Jacobs got a vital win to share the 12th race before Nielsen gained revenge on Roynon by overtaking him on lap three after a tense wheel-to-wheel battle.

Mildenhall got the lead back one heat later with Halsey and Bates securing Mildenhall’s fifth 5-1 of the night, bringing it all down to the final race.

Last year, Blackbird crashed and Cameron Heeps lost out by a wheel, and when Roynon and Ashley Morris got out in front it looked as though the Tigers — who only needed a share of the heat spoils — would be denied again.

However, that man Nielsen was relentless in his pursuit of the Dudley pair, coming to grief with Roynon, who was taken away in an ambulance with a possible broken leg.

Despite initial rumours Nielsen had been excluded, referee Dave Robinson sensibly reviewed video evidence before making such a pivotal decision, instead banning the stricken Roynon from the rerun for causing the accident.

Jacobs and Nielsen sensibly let Morris go out in front, tucking in behind to claim the three points they needed to add yet another trophy to their cabinet this season.

“There was a lot of pressure on us to get it done,” added Nielsen.

“I was a bit annoyed with my bike after heat 11 because if that hadn’t gone it would have done it for us.

“I started crying because I thought I had blown it for the whole team, but I managed to have a good one in heat 13.

“The referee made the right decision in the final race because I was trying to go around Roynon and on the inside of Morris.

“There wasn’t much space, but I saw Roynon look at me and want to block me.

“I don’t blame him because it was the last heat of the final and you have to expect it to be a tough battle.”

RIDER-BY-RIDER

Mildenhall Fen Tigers

Garrity 1*, 3, 2*, 1 = 7+2; Blackbird 2, 1, 3, 3 = 9; Jacobs 1*, 3, 2*, 3, 2 = 11+2; Halsey 2, 0, 3, 3 = 8; Nielsen 3, 2, R, 3, 1* = 9+1; Terry-Daley 1*, 0, 1 = 2+1; Bates 2, 2*, 2*, 0, 2* = 8+3

Dudley Heathens

Roynon 3, 3, 2, 6^, 2, X = 16; Greenwood 0, 1*, 1, 2*, 2 = 6+2; Perry R/R; Kirby X, R, 1 = 1; Morris X, 2, 3, F, 0, 3 = 8; Ritchings 3, 0, 1, 1, 1, 1*, F = 7+1; White-Williams 0, 1, 0 = 1

KEY: * = personal bonus point for finishing behind team-mate, R = retired, X = excluded, R/R = rider replacement, F = fell.