LEICESTER suffered a 54-36 defeat at Sheffield on Thursday as the race for the Sports Insure Premiership top four tightened up still further.

The Watling JCB Lions were unable to repeat their narrow victory at Owlerton from earlier in the season and remain third in the table – but now with only five points covering second to fifth place.

Lions still have full control of their own destiny but home wins over Wolverhampton, Sheffield and King’s Lynn are imperative to avoid a nervous finale as Ipswich continue to gain ground.

They had little answer to the Tigers’ top two of Tobiasz Musielak and home debutant Tai Woffinden, both of whom were unbeaten prior to Heat 15 when Lions skipper Max Fricke spoiled the maximums of both riders.

But by then Sheffield had the points convincingly in the bag with Josh Pickering also in the major points and Lewis Kerr winning two races at reserve.
Fricke’s best support came from Richie Worrall, and Justin Sedgmen also won a race, but the Lions were trailing from the moment they conceded a rare Heat 1 5-1 when Fricke was taken wide by Kyle Howarth with the Sheffield skipper teaming up with Musielak.

Worrall managed to split Pickering and Adam Ellis despite plenty of pressure in Heat 3 before Fricke became the Lions’ first winner two races later when he got the better of Ellis in the early stages.

Lions dug in and Worrall nearly got the better of Woffinden in terrific Heat 7 scrap before Sedgmen and guest Jason Edwards notched a 4-2 in Heat 8 to narrow the gap to four points.

But the home side took full control with a hat-trick of 5-1s over the next three races with Woffinden team-riding Kerr to a maximum over the hard-charging Fricke in Heat 11.

Lions hit straight back with a 5-1 of their own in Heat 12 as Fricke took a tactical substitute ride and secured the advantage with Worrall, but Woffinden and Musielak outgated Fricke and Richard Lawson in the next to rebuild the home side’s margin.

They added a further 4-2 in Heat 14 as Pickering used the outside line to pass Craig Cook, before Fricke had the final word for the Lions with a great effort in Heat 15 to hold off the challenge of Musielak.

Said Fricke: “I think we all struggled a little bit to find our feet today, and that was a bit of a turnaround from the last one.

“But I’m sure they were fired up here as well, because we won last time, and they definitely showed it.

“We’ll keep working and we figured a few things out towards the end, so that will help us next time.

“The league is really close and I’m sure everyone is after these last few points coming towards the end of the season.”

With the Sports Insure British Final taking place at Belle Vue on Monday – featuring Worrall, Cook and Lawson – the Lions are back in action at the Pidcock Motorcycles Arena, Beaumont Park next Thursday (August 17) in a vital local derby against Wolverhampton.

Fricke added: “We’ve had a couple of losses but I think going home everyone can settle, we know the track and we can get back to it.”

SHEFFIELD 54: Tobiasz Musielak 13+1, Tai Woffinden 12+2, Josh Pickering 10+1, Lewis Kerr 7, Kyle Howarth 6+2, Adam Ellis 6+1, Ace Pijper 0.
LEICESTER 36: Max Fricke 10+1, Richie Worrall 7, Craig Cook 4+1, Richard Lawson 4+1, Jason Edwards 4+1, Justin Sedgmen 4, Jake Allen 3+1.


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