Battling Fen Tigers just fall short in Knockout Cup classic
Mildenhall Fen Tigers 86
Eastbourne Eagles 92
(Over two meetings)
A superb KO Cup tie between two well matched teams went down to the wire over this weekend’s two meetings.
Saturday evenings first leg at Arlington saw a spirited performance from the ‘KJM’ Fen Tigers at a track that is renown as being a difficult place for visitors.
Last season the Tigers capitulated twice in deepest Sussex but this is a very different outfit and with everyone pulling together the team spirit shone through and kept the tie within their grasp.
A heat two win from 15 year-old debutant Sam Bebee, after a nasty collision in the second running of the heat had left him and his bike decidedly second hand, was a sign of things to come.
And although the Fen Tigers managed just three heat winners, they only conceded one 5-1 reversal and regularly tucked in for the minor places to hold a very strong Eastbourne line up,led by Elite League rider Adam Ellis, to a manageable 12 points.
Everyone contributed valuable points with top scorer Connor Mountain (10+1) leading the way and the unlucky Alfie Bowtell (6+1) suffering bike problems when well placed in heat eleven.
Saturday though was just the precursor for a high quality second leg on an excellently prepared track at Mildenhall stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Danny Halsey set the tone for an afternoon that would ebb and flow as he flew from the gate to inflict a rare defeat on Eastbourne’s Adam Ellis in heat one, recording the fastest time at West Row this season in the process.
With the crowd still rocking heat two sent the decibels up a few levels as Bebee linked up with reserve partner Rob Parker for a storming 5-1 and the deficit was cut in half within two races.
With shared heats and an exchange of 4-2’s the Fen Tigers remained six points behind overall going into heat eight.
Team Manager Robert Henry made a bold call in heat eight bringing Bebee in for Parker in a heat the Fen Tigers needed an advantage from.
The confident youngster showed incredible composure for one so inexperienced to follow partner Alfie Bowtell home and reduce Eastbourne’s lead to just two points.
Bebee was put under considerable pressure for all four laps but never once looked like making an error and pulled away on the last lap.
The crowd were now sensing a memorable day and when Connor Mountain chased Jake Knight in Heat nine before executing a high class pass on the flying Eagle the scores were level overall.
A shared heat 10 when Bowtell fell chasing hard after visiting Captain George Wood left the tie poised at 74-74 with five heats to go.
Although the Fen Tigers battled hard the Eagles Ellis won heats 11 and 13 to leave them two ahead with two to race.
A 4-2 reversal in heat 14 when Wood beat Connor Coles left the Fen Tigers with the unenviable task of needing a 5-1 in heat 15 to draw the tie.
When Ellis stormed from the gate again the game was up and the battling Fen Tigers finally had to except defeat in a meeting that was a credit to the National League and will live long in the memory of supporters.
After the meeting Kevin Jolly had nothing but praise for his side.
“Although we fell just short at the end of the day, I have nothing but praise for our lads,” he said.
“They are really gelling as a team and work so hard for each other. It is so refreshing to see and makes everything we go through each meeting worthwhile.
“Young Sam (Bebee) is like a breath of fresh air and his smile is so infectious. He did himself, the club and his family proud this weekend and has totally vindicated the decision to give him his opportunity.
“Our top three of Dan, Connor and Jon proved they are a match for anyone in this league and I really feel we have so much improvement in us as a team still to come.
“Add to that the youngsters showing stacks of potential after the meeting and there is a real buzz around the club again, long may it continue.
“I would like to offer my congratulations to Eastbourne and wish them well as they look to retain the cup”
Eastbourne Eagles 50 – Adam Ellis 15 (five rides), Luke Harris 4 (4), Ellis Perks 9 (4), George Wood 6 (4), Jake Knight 12+1 (5), Nick Phillips 2 (1), Charley Powell 2 (7)
Mildenhall Fen Tigers 38 – Danny Halsey 5 (5), Alfie Bowtell 6+1 (4), Connor Mountain 10+1 (5), Connor Coles 5+1 (4), Jon Armstrong 6 (4), Sam Bebee 3 (3), Robert Parker 3+2 (5)
Mildenhall Fen Tigers 48 – Danny Halsey 12+1 (5 rides), Alfie Bowtell 5 (4), Connor Mountain 11 (5), Connor Coles 4+1 (4), Jon Armstrong 9 (4), Sam Bebee 5+1 (5), Rob Parker 2+1 (3)
Eastbourne Eagles 42 – Adam Ellis 14 (5 rides), Luke Harris 2 (4), Ryan Blacklock (G) 7+1 (4), George Wood 7+2 (4), Jake Knight 8 (5), Niall Strudwick 1 (3), Charley Powell 3+1 (5)