LEICESTER were edged out 46-44 by champions Sheffield in a last heat decider at the Pidcock Motorcycles Arena, Beaumont Park on Thursday.

The Watling JCB Lions took the lead in a topsy-turvy encounter in Heat 13 with a brilliant 5-1 from Max Fricke and Ryan Douglas over Jack Holder and Tai Woffinden.

And when Luke Becker maintained the advantage by winning Heat 14, the Lions looked favourites to take the ROWE Motor Oil Premiership points.

But it was the Tigers who came up with the big finale thanks to Holder and his elder brother Chris, who made the best of gates two and four with Jack clearing off to win whilst Chris defended against the attacks of first Douglas and then Fricke to turn the meeting back around at the very end.

The lead actually changed hands on four occasions during the meeting and both sides could look back at points lost to falls and mechanical issues.

Lions saw Richard Lawson disqualified from Heat 1 for an awkward first bend tumble which also saw his stray bike clatter into Fricke – but the Tigers’ 4-2 in the re-run was quickly cancelled out by Drew Kemp and Joe Thompson with a 4-2 of their own in Heat 2.

Sheffield held a 5-1 position in Heat 3 only for Chris Holder to hit mechanical trouble, although as he slowed it impeded the run of Sam Masters on the outside and enabled Josh Pickering to pull clear at the front.

Jack Holder and Kyle Howarth put the Tigers four points up with a 5-1 in Heat 5 but the Lions struck back immediately as Fricke won Heat 6 with Tai Woffinden griding to a halt whilst Lawson passed Jason Edwards for second place.

And after Douglas had made it two successive wins in Heat 7, the home side took the lead for the first time when Dan Gilkes crashed out of Heat 8 for the Tigers, with Lawson winning the re-run ahead of Howarth and Thompson.

Lions looked set to extend the advantage in Heat 9 with a super ride by Masters seeing him get the better of Woffinden, but he suffered ignition trouble off the last bend and coasted over the line third as Woffinden snatched the win.

A series of Sheffield race victories included Jack Holder defeating Douglas in the battle of the unbeaten riders in Heat 11, whilst Chris Holder’s win over Masters in Heat 12 with Edwards third put them 37-35 up with three races to go.

Fricke and Douglas were superb in Heat 13 as they overcame Jack Holder and Woffinden to make it 40-38 to the Lions, and Becker enjoyed his best ride of a tough night by holding off the hard-charging Pickering in Heat 14 as Kemp spun out when trying to pass Edwards.

It took the Lions into the decider two points to the good, and with the same riders and same gates as Heat 13 their prospects looked good – but as Chris Holder made it from gate two, Jack stormed around the outside and there was no way through for Fricke or Douglas.

Manager Stewart Dickson said: “We gave it our best, but unfortunately we got beaten in the last race and that’s what makes it hard to take, when you’re leading by two points.

“We had choice of gates for Heat 15 and automatically we went with the same riders and gates as Heat 13, and then when you see their two riders jump out of the start your heart just sinks!

“But we can’t make any excuses. Sam Masters had a bit of bike trouble but so did Tai Woffinden and Chris Holder for them, so these things even themselves out.

“We’ve just got to keep going. I still think we’ve got a decent side, we just need to get the one-to-seven going collectively. The motivation is still there in the pits, and although we don’t have a divine right to win every meeting we should have enough about us to win here.

“If we had a bad defeat then I could have a pop at the riders, but I can’t knock anybody on that. Everybody gave their best, which is all you can ask for, it’s done and now we need to get on to Monday night.”

The Lions have a quick opportunity to get back to winning ways when they make the short trip to Birmingham on Monday, whilst Belle Vue are in town for the next home meeting next Thursday (April 18).

LEICESTER 44: Ryan Douglas 11, Max Fricke 10+1, Richard Lawson 6+2, Sam Masters 6+1, Luke Becker 6+1, Drew Kemp 3, Joe Thompson 2.
SHEFFIELD 46: Jack Holder 12+1, Chris Holder 9+2, Kyle Howarth 7, Josh Pickering 7, Jason Edwards 5+1, Tai Woffinden 5, Dan Gilkes 1+1.

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May 27, 2024

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