LEICESTER are now likely to need points on the road after their play-off chances took a further hit in a 42-47 home defeat to Sheffield.

The Watling JCB Lions are still outside the top four in the Sports Insure Premiership with three of their final four matches away from home, and they may well still require six points to qualify.

A dramatic encounter against the Tigers at the Pidcock Motorcycles Arena, Beaumont Park saw the Lions recover from six points down to lead by five heading into the closing three heats – only to suffer a serious late collapse.

Sheffield took initial control of the meeting with back-to-back 5-1s in Heats 4 and 5, Tai Woffinden and Lewis Kerr defeating Richie Worrall in the former, whilst a fierce battle in Heat 5 saw Ryan Douglas and Josh Pickering get the better of Richard Lawson and Justin Sedgmen.

Lions captain Max Fricke superbly came from the back to beat Woffinden in Heat 6 and then came into the next race as a tactical substitute, partnering Lawson to a 5-1 to cut the gap to two points.

But the Tigers regained control with Jason Edwards a surprise package at reserve, and as he held off the charging Drew Kemp, Kerr snuck through to complete a 5-1.

A 4-2 to the Lions in Heat 10 cut the gap to four before two highly eventful races both went firmly in the home side’s favour.

The fast-gating Edwards led Heat 11 but at the end of lap two the battle for the minor places ended with Douglas coming to grief on turn four, and with Worrall challenging Edwards at the time the race was correctly re-run, whereupon Worrall and Jake Allen banged in a 5-1 to level the scores.

And then in Heat 12, Pickering suffered mechanical trouble from the start and Kerr was disqualified with his forceful pass on Kemp causing the Leicester rider to come down, with the home side awarded a 5-0.

That should have been enough for victory but Woffinden and Douglas outmanoeuvred Worrall on the first lap of Heat 13 with Fricke unable to get through, as the gap came down to one point.

And then the Lions suffered a huge blow when the Tigers reserves Edwards and Kerr, who replaced a scoreless Kyle Howarth, gated to a 5-1 over Sedgmen and Allen.

Lions needed a 5-1 from Heat 15 to snatch a one-point win, but it was never really on as Woffinden held off everything Fricke could throw at him whilst Douglas added the insurance of third place.

Leicester manager Stewart Dickson said: “To lose two 5-1s straight after getting a 5-0 was really, really disappointing.

“I know the riders gave all their effort but when you’re five points up at home with three races to go, you shouldn’t be squandering it – not with the riders that we had in the last three heats, and unfortunately it wasn’t our night again.

“We’re all bitterly disappointed, there are riders who aren’t doing the job we brought them in to do, and there’s also one or two who are running out of steam.

“I never like to single riders out individually, but the supporters aren’t daft and they’ll look at the programme the same as me and see the scores, or the lack of scores.

“It’s something I’m going to have to look at, and I’m not going to dress it up and say we’ll get through this. We’re in a winless run at the moment and once you get into these ruts, it becomes a habit.

“I need to somehow lift this team for Monday. I gave the most powerful team talk I’ve probably given in years before the start tonight, and I expected everyone to have the hair standing up on the back of their neck afterwards!

“I know it’s not for the want of trying, but the bottom line is sometimes as a manager you’ve got to make changes. We have made changes but evidently they’ve not worked, and I’ve got some serious thinking to do.”

LEICESTER 42: Max Fricke 14, Richard Lawson 7+1, Jake Allen 6+2, Richie Worrall 6+1, Drew Kemp 6+1, Justin Sedgmen 3+1, Craig Cook 0.
SHEFFIELD 47: Tai Woffinden 13+1, Ryan Douglas 10, Lewis Kerr 9+4, Josh Pickering 8+1, Jason Edwards 7, Kyle Howarth 0, Adam Ellis r/r.
Sheffield win the aggregate point

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Leicester Lions V Oxford Spires
May 27, 2024

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