Wednesday May 19, 2021
LEICESTER made a winning start to their National Development League title defence by edging out Eastbourne 47-43 on Wednesday evening.

The Roger Webster Lion Cubs were taken to a last-heat decider in what turned out to be an eventful contest as league racing returned to the Paul Chapman & Sons Arena for the first time since October 2019.

Visiting No.1 Jake Knight completed a highly impressive 15-point maximum in that Heat 15, just holding off the strong challenge of Dan Thompson, whose 3-3 with brother Joe in third place was enough to see the Cubs through to victory.

Knight made a series of fast starts for the Seagulls, and Henry Atkins won his first two rides in fine style before dislocating his shoulder when chasing Joe Thompson in Heat 9 and being withdrawn from the remainder of the meeting.

That became the Cubs’ second 5-1 of the night from the Joe Thompson/Tom Spencer combination, with Leicester also taking advantage of two falls for Seagulls skipper Richard Andrews when in scoring positions.

Spencer gave a solid points-scoring display in the middle-order on his official debut for the club, and there was also a confidence-boosting third place for Kai Ward ahead of Nick Laurence in Heat 2 as he appeared in Cubs colours for the first time.

Leicester went into an action-packed Heat 10 with an eight-point lead, and so nearly collected a notable 5-1 as reserve James Chattin gated with skipper Joe Lawlor working overtime to team-ride Andrews out of contention.

The Eastbourne rider finally split the Cubs duo on the last lap and the unlucky Chattin fell after the race was completed and suffered a collarbone injury.

With youngster Nathan Ablitt riding strongly for the visitors, the Cubs were grateful for their advantage - which was trimmed back to just four points when Andrews passed Spencer for second place in Heat 14 to team up with Ablitt for maximum points.

But although the Thompsons could find no way past Knight in the decider, they secured match victory for their side with the Seagulls taking a deserved league point themselves.

Leicester boss Dave Howard said: “It was a very unpredictable meeting all the way through with plenty of incidents for both teams, and at the end of the day it was really good to get the three points.

“They were unlucky with Henry and his shoulder, but for us James was having a cracking race and for him to break his collarbone at the end was so unfortunate after the effort he’d put in.

“It was a great start to the season for Tom with paid-11, he was competitive in every race and really doing what we hoped he would do from his 3.80 average, and Kai will get a lot of confidence from beating an opponent and the way he rode there.

“Overall, what you want to do in the first meeting especially with it being just the league and not play-offs, is to get the points, and it’s great to get them for the home win.”

The Cubs are back in action at the Paul Chapman & Sons Arena on May 29 when the Armadale Devils provide the opposition.

LEICESTER 47: Dan Thompson 14, Joe Thompson 12+1, Joe Lawlor 8+1, Tom Spencer 7+4, James Chattin 4+1, Kai Ward 2+1, Jamie Halder r/r.
EASTBOURNE 43: Jake Knight 15, Nathan Ablitt 11+1, Henry Atkins 6, Chad Wirtzfeld 5, Richard Andrews 4+1, Connor King 1+1, Nick Laurence 1.

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