Sunday June 30, 2019
LEICESTER’S patched-up team suffered a 57-33 defeat at Eastbourne in the first leg of their Knockout Cup quarter-final.

Without injured heat-leaders Richie Worrall and Josh Bates, and with no available guest cover from within the Championship, the Watling JCB Lions were always likely to be up against it at Arlington.

Their remaining regulars all battled hard on the afternoon and but for a couple of misadventures, they could well have pushed their points total above the 35 mark.

As it is, they face a big comeback effort at the Paul Chapman & Sons Arena on Friday – although a reversal from a 24-point margin is far from unheard of in the sport.

Lions avoided serious damage in the first five races and only trailed by four points at that stage, with Ellis Perks and skipper Scott Nicholls both taking race wins.

Three successive 4-2s between Heats 6 and 8 saw the Eagles begin to exert full control, including a classic scrap between Ryan Douglas and Edward Kennett in the seventh which was resolved in the Eastbourne captain’s favour on lap three.

A ten-point deficit would have given the Lions plenty to work with, but sadly that went awry between Heats 10 and 12 in which they conceded three 5-1s on the bounce.

Reserve Georgie Wood was a key man for the Eagles, as he took the scalp of Douglas in Heat 10 en route to a 15-point haul – and Lions’ problems were compounded when Nicholls hit the fence in Heat 11 and came to grief when he appeared to have got the better of Kennett.

The Leicester captain recovered to win Heat 13, a race which saw Connor Mountain take a fall, and a Lions 4-2 in Heat 14 swung the Eagles’ way when race leader Douglas fell on the last bend.

Nicholls and Douglas shared Heat 15 behind Richard Lawson, which kept the margin at 24 ahead of Friday’s return.

Manager Stewart Dickson said: “We knew it was going to be very tough, and unfortunately we did throw a couple of points away.

“Afternoon racing is difficult, the track took a hammering and Scott and Ryan both came off in scoring positions, Ryan when he was 50 yards from the finish line.

“We needed them to have a wee bit of bad luck here and there, but although we started well we knew it was going to get tougher as it went on and it was us who made a couple of mistakes.

“The two boys who came in from the National League did their best but they aren’t at this level yet, but everyone mucked in and tried their hardest.

“It’s our first hiding of the season but everyone knows the reason why. It’s just one of those things, and a terrible week with a rider quitting, a rider getting his ankle broken and then losing another rider last night - it all caught up on us unfortunately.

“Conditions were tough and it looked like Connor would have to do Heats 12, 13 and 14, but I kept Adam Extance in because in that heat the machinery was burning up and I didn’t want to ask someone to do three on the trot.

“We were backed by a very vocal Leicester support, which we thank them for, we gave it our best and they were very understanding.

“We know we have a mountain to climb on Friday but it’s not over until it’s over. If we were coming back with 35 to 37 points I would have felt it was really game on, but I can’t criticise the way everyone battled.”

EASTBOURNE 57: Georgie Wood 15, Richard Lawson 12+1, Lewis Kerr 10+1, Edward Kennett 8+2, Kyle Newman 6+2, Alfie Bowtell 4+1, Ben Morley 2.
LEICESTER 33: Scott Nicholls 11, Ellis Perks 9+1, Ryan Douglas 7+1, Connor Mountain 5, Adam Extance 1, Ryan Terry-Daley 0, Richie Worrall r/r.

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