James Sarjeant proved to be the perfect guest for the Mildenhall Fen Tigers during the opening leg of their Knockout Cup semi-final replay.
Although the 19-year-old has not always endeared himself to Fen Tigers fans in recent seasons, all previous dealings were forgotten about on Tuesday with the Coventry Storm man topping the West Row outfit’s scoring chart with a paid 13 total.
That left the Tigers in a strong position at just two points behind ahead of Sunday’s second leg.
Like last Tuesday’s second leg of the initial semi-final, the Islanders drafted in Steve Worrall and Lee Smart to deputise for the injured pair of Adam Ellis and Daryl Ritchings.
Worrall took an opening-heat win, with race partner Danny Stoneman taking third to put the Islanders in front.
A shared heat followed, with Danny Phillips taking what was to be the first of two heat wins on the night, before Ben Hopwood and Smart teamed up for a 5-1 to put the Islanders six ahead.
The Fen Tigers clawed back two points with a 4-2 through Sarjeant and Stefan Nielsen in heat five, but the Islanders responded with two 4-2s of their own to take the score to 25-17 in their favour after seven heats.
The sides then traded 5-1s with Nielsen and Phillips combining to good effect in heat eight, before the Islanders’ pair of Hopwood and Smart took heat nine by the same scoreline.
After two shared heats, the Fen Tigers slammed in a crucial 5-1 in heat 12 as Sarjeant lead home teammate Phillips to put the Suffolk within four points of the Islanders.
Things were to get even better for the Fen Tigers in the penultimate heat as Phillips and Baseby secured a 5-1 to leave the teams deadlocked at 42-42 going into the decider.
But, just like seven days ago, last-lap bad luck was to strike again for the Fen Tigers with Nielsen suffering a blown engine, handing the Islanders a fortuitous 4-2 heat advantage and a slender opening-leg win.
The second leg of the replay was scheduled to take place at West Row on Wednesday, but heavy rain put paid to those plans. The rescheduled meeting will now take place at 3.30pm on Sunday.
Isle of Wight: S Worrall 13+1; B Hopwood 9; L Smart 5+2; T Perry 12: D Stoneman 5; C Widman 2+1.
Mildenhall Fen Tigers: S Nielsen 10+1; J Sarjeant 12+1; A Baseby 4+1; D Halsey 7; L Rumsey 0; D Phillips 11+3.