Friday April 19, 2019
LEICESTER’S dream start to the season continued with a brilliant 49-41 win at Redcar on Friday.

The Watling JCB Lions took all four Championship Shield points from the Media Prima Arena – and with Sheffield failing to score at Scunthorpe, it means a win over the Tigers at home on Saturday will take them into the semi-finals as group winners.

Lions made a whirlwind start on Teesside, going 12-points up after just five races, and although that margin was cut to four with three races to go, the all-round strength of the visitors shone through.

Former Lions star Charles Wright piled up 16 points for the Bears, but he lacked serious heat-leader support – whereas Leicester skipper Scott Nicholls, who carded paid-13, received major back-up from four riders.

Those included Ellis Perks, who starred on his return to his old club with paid-10, and his 5-1s with Nicholls in Heats 1 and 5 really set the ball rolling.

By then, the Bears had lost Tom Bacon to a hand injury after a first-race fall, and with Connor Mountain winning his first two rides, and Josh Bates and Richie Worrall also taking the flag, it took until the seventh race for Wright to give the Bears some respite.

But the home side made little progress towards recovering the gap they faced, despite a good ride by Jordan Stewart to come from the back in Heat 8, and Wright doing likewise in Heat 10 against Bates and Ryan Douglas, and with four races to go the Lions appeared comfortable with a 37-29 advantage.

That all changed in Heat 12 when Mountain was penalised for touching the tapes and Bates fell on the second lap, enabling the Bears to halve the deficit to four points.

But Nicholls showed his class to get the better of Wright on the first lap of Heat 13 with Worrall third, and Douglas headed up another 4-2 in the next to confirm victory.

And a super night’s work was wrapped up in the last race when Worrall and Nicholls packed the places behind Wright, and ahead of Ben Barker, to ensure maximum points from the meeting.

Lions boss Stewart Dickson said: “It’s been the perfect night for us. We knew the score from Scunthorpe beforehand, but we still had to do our own job.

“We started really well, and it was important to build up the lead early. We had seven guys who all contributed – I know one or two scored less than what they wanted, but the extra point here and there is the reason why we’re going home with four points rather than three.

“They had a bit of misfortune with losing Tom Bacon, who’s a nice lad and we wish him well, and they did come into it a bit and got our lead down.

“But I knew we had the guys who could finish the job. I felt we had a chance in Heats 13 to 15, and we knew when we had a chat at the interval that we could still be in for a tough last few races.

“Scott played the captain’s role, he led from the front, and I always felt Ellis could be a key rider for us here. He was fantastic, and it always pleases any rider to go back to his old home track and score a hatful – he rode the track very well.

“In fact he was unlucky not to get the nod for Heat 15, but the reason why we have riders like Scott and Richie is to go out in the pressure races with their experience – but Ellis’s time will come for that.”

REDCAR 41: Charles Wright 16, Jordan Stewart 7, Ben Barker 6+1, Nathan Greaves 4+1, Jack Smith 4+1, Michael Palm Toft 4, Tom Bacon 0
LEICESTER 49: Scott Nicholls 10+3, Ellis Perks 9+1, Connor Mountain 9+1, Richie Worrall 9, Ryan Douglas 8, Josh Bates 3, Jack Thomas 1
Championship Shield points: Redcar 0 Leicester 4

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