Josh Bailey wants Mildenhall Fen Tigers to take the initiative in National League Knockout Cup final first leg
Josh Bailey hopes to cap his recent return from a spell on the sidelines by helping the Mildenhall Fen Tigers to take the initiative in the opening leg of the National League Knockout Cup final at Mildenhall Stadium tonight (8pm).
The 21-year-old scored 10 points on his first start back following an enforced lay-off with concussion for the club during their 53-37 victory over the Birmingham Brummies – making it 17 consecutive wins in the league on Sunday.
Having got his mind dialled back in, Bailey will now bid to bolster the Fen Tigers’ chances of defeating the Eastbourne Eagles – in what is a repeat of last year’s final – by helping them build up a solid advantage to defend in the second leg at Arlington tomorrow night (7.30pm).
It could also be a precursor to facing them in the National League Play-off Final, with the first leg at the winners of Eastbourne or Coventry Bees, with their semi-final first leg due to take place on Sunday, currently scheduled for next Saturday and the return at Mildenhall the following Friday (26th).
Bailey said: “At points I thought why bother trying to come back as the authorities were making it so difficult. The trouble is I want to ride and I’ve been riding all season for this.
“If I was going to do it I wanted to do it properly and get stuck in like I did against Birmingham.
“ I had worked hard off the bike and it was like coming into a fresh season.
“I didn’t know what to expect going into that first race and it took a couple of races to get back into it but I think I proved a point.
“The track will be different under the floodlights as it will be more moist and there will be more grip and that suits me absolutely fine but we can adapt to it.
“We know what to expect from Eastbourne and if
we turn them over here then we know what we have got
to do there at the end of the day.”
Although the Eagles, who will be bidding for a fourth straight KO Cup success, like the Fen Tigers are unbeaten at home this season Bailey believes that they have riders in their side capable of changing that statistic and getting one over his former club.
“They are the sort of team that can rise above pressure as they know how good they are at home but we have got strong riders that ride well round there and we are fully fired up for it,” added Bailey.
“The top three in both teams are evenly matched and I would say our reserves are stronger but it could be how the second string riders on both sides perform that will make or break it.
“I am sure there will be a few nerves but it is just another two meetings at the end of the day. It will be up to us what happens and hopefully it will go our way.”
Meanwhile, team manager Phil Kirk has called on the Fen Tigers to make the most of their home advantage this evening.
Although the Fen Tigers have defeated the Eagles at home in both the National League and National Trophy this season, Kirk has warned they cannot afford to take things for granted.
“We need to perform like we did when we beat the Kent Kings (61-29) the other week in the National League play-off semi-final at home,” he said.
“We have beaten Eastbourne at home convincingly twice this season, but they count for nothing now and this is a one-off final.
“I remember last year we lost the first leg at Arlington by 28 points. They beat us fair and square down there and we were lucky to get out with what we did.
“It was so hard in the second leg and you are virtually six races behind and then you are chasing all the time.
“We are solid, though, away from home and there is nothing to say we couldn’t go and win down there with the way the boys are riding.”
More by this authorLiam Apicella