LEICESTER took a big step towards retaining the NDL Knockout Cup with a 49-38 win at Mildenhall in an incident-strewn first leg on Sunday.

The Lion Cubs will look to finish the job when they host the Fen Tigers at the Pidcock Motorcycles Arena, Beaumont Park next Saturday (October 14) after a brutal meeting at West Row which saw no fewer than five riders withdrawn with injuries, whilst others collected bumps and bruises.

Vinnie Foord and guest Jack Smith were ruled out for the Lion Cubs – and Foord will miss the next two matches after being signed out with concussion - whilst the Fen Tigers saw Alfie Bowtell, guest Jody Scott and reserve William Richardson all crash out.

It was a meeting which was beset with problems from the start, as issues with the tapes meant that races were started on the green light.

But away from the carnage, Ashton Boughen raced to a brilliant 15-point maximum for the Lion Cubs as he underlined his prodigious talent, whilst Max Perry wasn’t far behind with 12, and guest Jacob Hook contributed a paid maximum from five rides.

Skipper Tom Spencer’s total of paid-seven would have been higher but for a fall when he was leading Heat 14, whilst Max James deserves great credit for completing three rides in Foord’s absence after two crashes during Heat 2.

The Cubs’ 11-point margin was achieved despite conceding 5-0s in both Heats 2 and 14, with Foord withdrawn after a tangle with Scott in Heat 4, whilst Smith had crashed in the first race and took no further part after Heat 5.

But with the Fen Tigers similarly depleted, and themselves losing their No.1 Bowtell after a crash in Heat 6, the Lion Cubs levelled when Hook won the re-run and then marched on to victory.

Perry and Spencer struck a 5-1 over Kai Ward in Heat 7 with Boughen and James repeating the feat in the next race, and after Hook won Heat 9 where the Cubs fielded just one rider, two more 5-1s followed in the next two races.

Heat 10 saw the Perry/Spencer combination defeat Ben Trigger whilst Boughen and Hook secured the points in Heat 11 to put the Cubs 16 points to the good.

A further 5-1 followed in Heat 13 from the same two riders, this time at the expense of George Congreve, and at that stage the score was 48-28 in Leicester’s favour.

Spencer’s fall in Heat 14 came in a race where the Lions only had one representative so that became a 5-0 to the Fen Tigers, and the home side got the gap back to 11 points with a 5-1 in Heat 15 from Trigger and Congreve over Perry with the Cubs again going one rider short.

Cubs boss Dave Howard said: “Whilst the last couple of races went against us, we’d certainly have taken an 11-point victory before the meeting started, so we’re in a very good position heading into Saturday.

“It was a great effort by the guys on a track that was so tricky for both teams, and with both teams losing riders during the meeting.

“It’s disappointing to lose Vinnie for 12 days but thankfully everybody else will be okay for Saturday. Max James’s wrist was hurting him so he felt it best not to take his last ride just in case something happened, and he did well to complete three more rides after his big fall in his first race and gain some good points in those as well.

“Ashton’s gating on the green light was superb in every race, Jacob had a great performance as a guest and Max Perry had another strong meeting, and Tom had a good meeting as well so it’s a great result for us after such an eventful meeting.”

MILDENHALL 38: George Congreve 11+2, Ben Trigger 10+1, Kai Ward 9+2, Arran Butcher 3+1, William Richardson 3, Alfie Bowtell 2, Jody Scott 0.
LEICESTER 49: Ashton Boughen 15, Jacob Hook 13+2, Max Perry 12, Tom Spencer 5+2, Max James 4+2, Jack Smith 0, Vinnie Foord 0.

Photo credit: DEREK LEADER

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