NATIONAL LEAGUE KNOCKOUT CUP
Mildenhall Fen Tigers 50
Isle of Wight Islanders 40
Danny Phillips can see no reason why the Mildenhall Fen Tigers will not make it through to their third straight National League Knockout Cup final.
Despite a slow start, the Fen Tigers eventually saw off the Isle of Wight Islanders 50-40, largely in part to three 5-1s out of the final four heats.
Following the win, young reserve rider Phillips believes the Fen Tigers are now more than capable of maintaining their 10-point advantage over the Islanders when the two teams meet again at Smallbrook Stadium on October 8.
“It could have been better as we did drop a few points, but it is better than going there with nothing,” said Phillips.
“As long as they don’t make too many mistakes and they don’t have get too many 5-1s go against them then they should be fine.”
After a shared opening heat, the West Row outfit fell behind for the first time in the meeting when finding themselves on the wrong end of a 4-2 just a heat later, a result which would have been different had Phillips, sitting second at the time, not taken a last-lap tumble.
The deadly duo of Josh Bates and Jon Armstrong quickly turned things around by slamming home a 5-1 to swing the tie back in the Fen Tigers’ favour.
Armstrong found himself out of luck in his next outing in heat five after a first-bend tangle with guest Islander Ben Morley and the fencing saw him withdrawn from the meeting with a season-ending back injury.
Luck was to once again desert the Fen Tigers in heat seven as Dan Halsey suffered a mechanical failure when clear in front to gift the visitors the first of back-to-back 5-1s.
Finding themselves six points behind, the Fen Tigers hit back with a brace of 5-1s of their own, both of which featured new reserve Phillips.
Leading home Josh Bates in heat nine, the 16-year-old then tucked in behind Stefan Nielsen in heat 10, to help put the Fen Tigers two points ahead.
Bates and Phillips combined to good effect once again in heat 12, with Bates this time leading Phillips for another 5-1 before Halsey and Nilesen had too much ammunition for Tom Perry and Morley to further extend the Fen Tigers’ lead.
Although the Islanders reduced the deficit back to six points with a 5-1 of their own in the penultimate heat, Halsey and Nielsen made sure the Fen Tigers would be taking a double-figure advantage over to Smallbrook Stadium when racing to a meeting closing 5-1.
“We struggled a bit to get to grips with track early on but once it slickened up it felt better,” said Nielsen.
“I was quite happy with my own performance it was just a shame that I couldn’t start off with a win in heat one.
“We would have liked more points and we know it is not going to be easy at the away leg so it is vital that the team spirit is positive as it will be a big thing on the night.”
Mildenhall Fen Tigers: S Nielsen 11+3; A Baseby 1+1; J Bates 11+1; J Armstrong 2+1; D Halsey 12; D Phillips 9+1; L Rumsey 4.
Isle of Wight Islanders: T Perry 4+2; B Morley 11; B Johnson 3+1; D Ritchings 10; D Stoneman 5+2; C Widman 7+2.