LEICESTER are up to second position in the Sports Insure Premiership after a dramatic 46-44 win at Sheffield on Thursday.

The Watling JCB Lions picked up their fifth successive victory, three of them on the road, by holding their nerve in a tight finish at Owlerton – and in doing to, they inflicted the Tigers’ first home defeat in over a year.

The fast starting of Justin Sedgmen again proved absolutely crucial as he was unbeaten from his first three rides, whilst Richard Lawson took three race wins and Max Fricke supplied vital second places in Heats 13 and 15 as Sheffield threw everything back at the Lions in the closing stages, inspired by an unstoppable 18-point maximum from Jack Holder.

Sedgmen started his night well with a Heat 1 win over Tigers No.1 Tobiasz Musielak, as the teams traded early 4-2s with Jake Allen splitting the home duo in Heat 2.

But the Lions made the first major breakthrough in Heat 3 as Lawson and skipper Chris Harris combined to squeeze out Adam Ellis on the first two turns, and went clear for a big 5-1.

Heat 4 was shared with home reserve Dan Gilkes taking a fall on turn three, and the travelling contingent of Lions fans were left delighted by the events of the next two races.

Ellis had what appeared the advantageous inside gate for Heat 5 but Sedgmen made another blinder of a start alongside him, and with Fricke sweeping around the outside the Lions had a 5-1 to go eight points up.

And it got even better in Heat 6 when Nick Morris and Allen out-gated Musielak with Allen riding a superb defensive race in second place to hold the all-action Pole at bay.

Sheffield threatened a response in Heat 7 as Holder hit the front and Kyle Howarth battled his way past Harris for second place, but the Lions captain regained his speed and then dived inside his Tigers counterpart on the last bend to regain second place.

That left Leicester ten points up, but after Sedgmen kept up his winning ways in Heat 8, Sheffield struck back with a tactical substitute outing in Heat 9 for Holder, who collected a 5-1 with Josh Pickering over Morris and Allen.

A spectacular Heat 10 had the Lions looking set to extend their lead as Harris rode a stormer to get round both Musielak and Howarth and go second behind Lawson – but disaster struck on the last lap as Harris hit the fence on the back straight and slid off heading into turn three, with Musielak also coming down as he took avoiding action.

Thankfully there were no injuries but a Leicester 5-1 was turned into a 3-3, although fortune swung the Lions’ way in Heat 11 when Sheffield were set for a 4-2 only for Howarth to suffer a puncture on the last bend allowing Sedgmen through for third place.

4-2s were traded in the next two races with Lawson winning Heat 12 whilst Howarth passed Allen for second, before Fricke had to work hard to split Holder and Musielak in Heat 13, re-passing the Pole at the end of the second lap.

Lions looked to have a match-winning position as Harris and Allen gated in Heat 14 but they were upstaged by a stunning ride by Pickering to go from third to first, whilst Howarth retrieved third place from Harris to take the meeting into a last-heat decider.

The key for Fricke and Lawson was to prevent a Sheffield 5-1 which would have sent the meeting into a Super Heat, and with Holder away and gone up front they looked to close ranks ahead of Musielak – who eventually passed Lawson for third place, but Fricke held firm despite a major attack by the Sheffield No.1 on the last two laps, to secure the two points the Lions needed.

Manager Stewart Dickson said: “We got off to a good start, momentum is definitely with us now, and you can get into a habit of winning just like when you’re losing!

“I’ll be honest, I didn’t see us coming here and winning, and maybe that’s me not giving my team the credit that they deserve.

“It was a thoroughly entertaining meeting and we knew Sheffield would come back into it, but we held on in the and we got the win.

“The plan for Heat 15 was that Richard Lawson had been doing well off gate three, for him to take care of Tobi on the opening two bends to give Max the chance to get away.

“We almost let Jack Holder get a free run to the first bend, he was the maximum man and the best rider on show, but Leicester are a seven-man team, and we proved that again tonight.”

The Lions are now second in the table, four points behind leaders Belle Vue with three matches in hand. Crucially they have a seven-point advantage over fifth-placed Ipswich, with one match in hand.

Lions take a break from league action until July 6 when they host Peterborough, but they stage the Premiership Pairs, featuring all seven clubs, at the Pidcock Motorcycles Arena, Beaumont Park next Thursday (June 29).

SHEFFIELD 44: Jack Holder 18, Kyle Howarth 8+1, Josh Pickering 6+1, Tobiasz Musielak 5, Lewis Kerr 3+2, Dan Gilkes 3, Adam Ellis 1.
LEICESTER 46: Max Fricke 10, Justin Sedgmen 9+2, Richard Lawson 9, Jake Allen 7+1, Nick Morris 5+1, Chris Harris 4+1, Drew Kemp 2.
Leicester win aggregate point

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Leicester Lions V Ipswich Witches
July 18, 2024 19.30

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