Mildenhall Fen Tigers 48
Eastbourne Eagles 42
Eastbourne win 92-86
Connor Mountain believes plenty of bright days lie ahead for the Mildenhall Fen Tigers if they continue the same levels of enthusiasm shown during their Knockout Cup exit.
For the second year in succession the West Row outfit succumbed to a first round defeat in the competition on Sunday after failing to find a way past reigning holders Eastbourne Eagles.
While the aggregate result was not what the club had hoped for, the 18-year-old insists the performance was a vast improvement on the 112-67 defeat they suffered at the same stage to the King’s Lynn Young Stars 12 months ago.
“Obviously the Knockout Cup is a competition we are not supposed to win,” said Mountain.
“I am gutted as we kept it pretty close in the first leg but I think as a team today (Sunday) we pulled together really well and I don’t think anyone can fault the team work.
“I feel that this team is quite a lot better than the one that lost to King’s Lynn last year and there seems to be a better buzz in the pits which is good for the future.
“We are all gutted but this is the best spirit I’ve had in a team at Mildenhall. The track was awesome, the racing has been great and I enjoyed every minute, it was just a shame about the overall result.”
After going down 50-38 in the opening leg at Arlington 24 hours earlier, the Fen Tigers quickly set about bridging the 12 point gap.
An opening heat 4-2, which saw Dan Halsey inflict a rare defeat on Adam Ellis was quickly followed up by a 5-1 fronted by reserve Sam Bebee on his home debut.
Although Jake Knight and Charley Powell raced to a 4-2 for the visitors in heat four to extend Eastbourne’s advantage back up to eight, that gap was down to two by the conclusion of heat eight with Alfie Bowtell and Bebee, in a reserve swap for Rob Parker, taking a crucial 5-1.
After clawing their way back in the tie, the Fen Tigers drew level in the very next race as Mountain, in the move of the meeting, executed a perfect pass on Knight to clinch a 4-2 with Connor Coles.
The momentum was soon to swing back in favour of the Sussex side though as Ellis and Luke Harris paired up to good effect to pocket a 4-2 in heat 11 to nudge the Eagles into a slender lead they would not surrender.
After the visitors clinched the penultimate race by the same scoreline, only a 5-1 from the Fen Tigers would be good enough to force the draw in the finale, but despite the best efforts of Halsey and Mountain it was a task too much as Ellis and Knight stormed to a 4-2 to secure the tie.
n The Fen Tigers will be back in action on Wednesday when travelling to the Adrian Flux Arena to face King’s Lynn Young Stars (7.30pm).
Scores: (First Leg) Eastbourne Eagles 50: A Ellis 15, L Harris 4, E Perks 9, G Wood 6 J Knight 12+1, N Phillips 2, C Powell 2.
Mildenhall Fen Tigers 38: D Halsey 5, A Bowtell 6+1, C Mountain 10+1, C Coles 5+1, J Armstrong 6, S Bebee 3, R Parker 3+2.
(Second Leg) Mildenhall Fen Tigers 48: D Halsey 12+1, A Bowtell 5, C Mountain 11, C Coles 4+1, J Armstrong 9 S Bebee 5+1, R Parker 2+1.
Eastbourne Eagles 42: A Ellis 14, L Harris 2, R Blacklock (G) 7+1, G Wood 7+2, J Knight 8, N Strudwick 1 C Powell 3+1.