Wednesday August 11, 2021
LEICESTER were limited to one league point after being edged out 46-44 in a tight contest at Birmingham on Wednesday.

The Watling JCB Lions needed a 5-1 from Heat 15 to snatch a draw at Perry Barr, but home skipper Chris Harris managed to split Nick Morris and Ryan Douglas for the second place the home side required.

But whilst there was frustration at missing out to one of the Championship’s lower sides, there was also relief that the Lions came away with a full septet of riders with the meeting taking place in patchy and very dusty track conditions.

There were a series of incidents on the first bend with Douglas first to hit trouble when he fell after making a fast start in Heat 3 – and with Harris, who can normally handle almost any situation, also coming to grief heavily in Heat 7 it was clear things were far from ideal.

Most of the Lions riders had their moments with Morris outstanding on his way to paid-14 with four race wins, and there was also a highly encouraging display from recent signing Zaine Kennedy with seven points.

Lions dropped behind when Ashley Morris and James Shanes took advantage of a lock-up from Hans Andersen on the troublesome turn one in Heat 5, but they fought back strongly with a battling third place from Joe Thompson in Heat 6 to back up Nick Morris.

Heat 7 proved a key turning point after the disqualification of Harris, as key reserve Paco Castagna defeated Douglas and Kyle Howarth in the re-run, which was a race Leicester would have earmarked for points.

They did take a 5-1 in Heat 8 from Kennedy and Dan Thompson, who fended off Valentin Grobauer, but Birmingham levelled in a competitive Heat 10 when Howarth was squeezed out at the start and Erik Riss got the better of Douglas.

A 5-1 to the Brummies from Harris and Castagna in Heat 11 put the Lions up against it, but they were back to within two points when Douglas won Heat 12 with Kennedy taking third from Castagna.

Heat 13 was shared as Harris passed Andersen into the third bend, but Birmingham edged Heat 14 with Castagna repelling every effort from Howarth, whilst Ashley Morris snatched third from Kennedy into the final corner.

That left Lions needing a 5-1 in Heat 15 to draw, but it was never really on as Harris threatened Nick Morris for a couple of laps before settling for second place ahead of Douglas to the delight of the home fans.

Morris said: “It was a little frustrating having to settle for just the one point, but tonight was about safety as well.

“The track was pretty dire and the dust was shocking as well, so if you didn’t make a start you were in trouble.

“It’s a long season still and there are important meetings to come, so some days you’ve just got to take it on the chin and get home safe.

“I was making good starts and getting some fresh air, so I felt quite comfortable on a bad track, and everything is going pretty well for me.

“At least we came away with something. We were obviously looking for a win, but some of the guys weren’t popping out of the start and then it was race over around here tonight. We’ll keep our heads up and go again.”

Lions are back in action at the Paul Chapman & Sons Arena on Saturday when they face Eastbourne.

BIRMINGHAM 46: Paco Castagna 12+1, Chris Harris 10, James Shanes 7+2, Ashley Morris 7+1, Erik Riss 7, Valentin Grobauer 2+1, Jack Thomas 1.
LEICESTER 44: Nick Morris 13+1, Ryan Douglas 7+1, Zaine Kennedy 7, Kyle Howarth 7, Hans Andersen 6, Dan Thompson 3+1, Joe Thompson 1.

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