Saturday June 11, 2022
LEICESTER extended their Championship lead to 11 points with a hard-fought 48-41 win over Plymouth at the Paul Chapman & Sons Arena.

The Watling JCB Lions have now won eight successive league matches, but the Gladiators put in the best performance from a visiting side for some time, and came extremely close to coming away with a league point.

As it was, a 4-2 from Nick Morris and Richie Worrall in Heat 15, split by excellent Plymouth guest Scott Nicholls, gave the Lions a seven-point margin meaning the Gladiators had nothing for their efforts.

Both sides were reduced in number early on, with Leicester’s Connor Mountain taking a hefty spill when he looped at the start in Heat 1, and although he was able to walk away, he took no further part in the meeting.

That meant a busy meeting for the reserves, with Dan Thompson and guest Jason Edwards both playing a vital role, and they combined for the Lions’ only 5-1 of the meeting in Heat 2 after the Gladiators’ Harry McGurk had slammed into the back straight fence, and he too was withdrawn.

Lions then conceded a 5-1 when Richie Worrall suffered mechanical trouble in Heat 3, and there was a tremendous battle between Kyle Howarth and Hans Andersen in Heat 4 with the Lions skipper coming out on top.

Michael Palm Toft was in good form for the Gladiators, winning his first two rides and producing a fine swoop around Howarth and Edwards on turn four in Heat 7.

Edwards salvaged third place from Ben Morley on the run to the line in Heat 8, and Worrall made it round Andersen on the third lap of Heat 9 as the Lions extended their advantage to five points.

An unlucky Thompson was rounded up by first Ben Barker and then Palm Toft in Heat 10 for a 3-3, before Howarth held off Nicholls in a fierce Heat 11 scrap and the Lions edged a 4-2 from Heat 12 with Worrall surging inside Barker on lap two.

A 4-2 to Plymouth in Heat 13, with Nichols ending Morris’s long unbeaten run at home, actually meant the visitors could not use a tactical substitute in the penultimate race which may well have paid dividends for them, and Thompson and Edwards all-but secured victory with a 3-3 behind Palm Toft, who motored through on the first lap.

The Gladiators’ more realistic hopes were to take a league point by sharing Heat 15 or better, but although Nicholls managed to get between Morris and Worrall to split the home duo, Palm Toft found no way through.

Morris said: “That was a hard one, Plymouth have got a pretty good team and they stuck to us all the way through, and it was pretty tight. But it was a good team performance, we kept fighting to the end and we got the win.

“We’ve been going well really all season, we had a couple of blips away from home early on, but things are going well now.

“But like I’ve said before, it doesn’t really matter at the moment – it’s who’s on form at the end. Obviously it’s good to be in good position in the table, we want to finish top, but we also want to be in top form for the play-offs.

“Losing Connor was bad, and hopefully he’s alright because he went down really hard, I saw that in the corner of my eye.”

LEICESTER 48: Nick Morris 14, Dan Thompson 10, Richie Worrall 9, Kyle Howarth 8, Jason Edwards 5+4, Joe Thompson 2, Connor Mountain 0.
PLYMOUTH 41: Scott Nicholls 12, Michael Palm Toft 10+1, Hans Andersen 7, Ben Barker 6+1, Alfie Bowtell 5+1, Ben Morley 1, Harry McGurk 0.

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