Happy days are here again for Fen Tigers

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Stoke Potters 40

Mildenhall Fen Tigers 52

(The Tigers won 103-83 on aggregate)

by Derek Bish at Loomer Road

THE Mildenhall Fen Tigers clinched their first trophy in seven years by winning the National League Knockout Cup in style at the Stoke Potters on Saturday night.

For fans of the Suffolk side, it has been a long seven months, never mind seven years, as the Tigers rose from the dead to end their first season since reforming with silverware on the mantelpiece.

Cameron Heeps, Mark Baseby, Joe Jacobs, Lewis Blackbird, Dan Halsey, Aaron Baseby, skipper Jack Hargreaves and team manager Rob Henry wrote themselves into Tigers folklore with a stunning performance in the Potteries to break home fans’ hearts.

“We’ve given back speedway to Mildenhall and also brought back success,” said Henry. “Mildenhall fans like success and if we can keep on doing that, it would be great.

“It was a 100 per cent team effort – from number one right down to number seven – I couldn’t be more delighted.”

Having suffered a trouncing in the first leg of the National League play-off final first leg at Scunthope just 24 hours before, Mildenhall picked themselves off the ground to win the Knockout Cup second leg by 12 points and defeat Stoke by 20 on aggregate.

Heeps, Halsey and Blackbird won the first three heats respectively, but incidents in the fourth and fifth races threatened to turn the match on its head, only for the Tigers to come out fighting.

Hargreaves – already battered and bruised after his injury in the Bernie Klatt Memorial Trophy the week before – locked up when leading on the final bend of the first lap of heat four and was piled into by Tim Webster, Ben Reade and team-mate Aaron Baseby.

The skipper was excluded, allowing Webster and Reade to race to a 5-1 in the re-run and reduce the aggregate gap to 10 points.

And when Heeps was booted out of the following race for causing Tony Atkin to crash, it looked as if the Tigers were beginning to push the self-destruct button.

But Mark Baseby – who had been missing at Scunthorpe the night before – produced the sort of ride that used to make him such a dangerman in speedway, but had so often been lacking this season.

He held off the challenge of James Sarjeant and Atkin for a share of the spoils, allowing Halsey and Hargreaves to increase the lead to 14 points once more just minutes later when awarded heat six, after Jason Garrity’s ambitious move on Hargreaves put the Mildenhall man in the fence.

Down but not out, Hargreaves continued, although he was clearly in some discomfort and failed to score another point.

A maximum for Stoke’s Sarjeant and Atkin in heat nine could have proved to be another turning point had Blackbird not secured victory in the next race, meaning a one-two finish for Mark Baseby and Heeps in heat 11 left Mildenhall on the brink of glory.

Requiring just one more second place from the final four races, Halsey and Jacobs clinched their first honour in speedway by racing to first and second, respectively.

Another 20 points were shared by the sides over the final three heats – including a tactical ride second for Garrity – but all they did was delay the trophy presentation, fireworks and champagne spraying as Hargreaves and his team-mates celebrated with the many Mildenhall fans that had made the trip north and out-sung their hosts throughout the whole meeting.