LEICESTER remain very much in KO Cup contention after going down 48-42 in their first leg at Ipswich on Thursday.

It could have been even better for the Watling JCB Lions, who held the Witches at bay throughout the meeting and led by two points with three races remaining – only for the home side’s powerhouse spearhead of Jason Doyle and Emil Sayfutdinov to card two late 5-1s.

Even so, there were plenty of encouraging signs for the Lions including two race wins for debutant Justin Sedgmen on a night where five of their riders won races, and the tie is fully alive heading into the second leg on April 17.

The opening four heats at Foxhall were all shared, although the first race saw Lions No.1 Max Fricke gain ground on Doyle on the closing stages, whilst Jake Allen became the visitors’ first winner in Heat 2 with a smart move to go inside Danyon Hume on turn two.

But all the action was behind them with the Thompson twins battling throughout the race, and although Dan initially put Leicester into a 4-2 situation, Joe fought back and passed his twin brother around the outside on the last lap.

Convincing wins followed for home heat-leaders Danny King and Sayfutdinov with the Lions packing the places, and Dan got the better of Joe in their Heat 4 re-match.

And the Lions were the first side to break the deadlock when Fricke superbly switched inside King off the fourth bend of Heat 5 after the home skipper had briefly hit the front into turn three, with Sedgmen supplying third place – but the Witches immediately hit back with a 4-2 of their own in the next.

Sedgmen pounced on an early error by Keynan Rew to take the Lions’ second win in Heat 8, but with Joe this time holding off Dan in their final clash of the evening, the scores were level at 24-24 heading into the second half of the meeting.

A messy start to Heat 9 saw Allen left with nowhere to go on the first bend, but Nick Morris neatly rounded Erik Riss on the first lap to complete yet another shared race.

Ipswich finally edged ahead with a 4-2 in Heat 10, Lions skipper Chris Harris splitting Doyle and Rew – but a superb Heat 11 saw Leicester turn things round as Fricke and Sedgmen outgated the flying Sayfutdinov and then produced some outstanding team-riding to hold the Russian-born rider at bay.

Lions held their lead in a shared Heat 12 but a brutal first bend to the top-class Heat 13 saw Doyle move Fricke aside on the first bend just when the Lions man appeared to have got the jump, and that allowed Sayfutdinov through for second place.

A fast start from the Lions duo in Heat 14 saw them sitting on a 5-1 in the early stages, but Hume and Erik Riss both forced their way inside Allen to rescue a 3-3 for the home side and take them into the last race ahead.

And with Doyle and Sayfutdinov this time doing it from the gate, there was no way through for Fricke and Harris as the lead moved up to six points.

Lions manager Stewart Dickson said: “If I was to be ultra-critical, it should have been closer than six points, but for the first night the boys did well and there are still one or two to get up to speed.

“The two big heats, 13 and 15, caused the damage but we should have been in more of a lead than two points going into Heat 13, and Heat 14 was unfortunate as well.

“If you’d said before the meeting that we’d score 42 points I would have taken it, but I’ve come away slightly disappointed that we never got 44 or 45, because it was there for us if we’d been a bit shrewder on-track, but that will come in time.

“We said Justin Sedgmen was a good, strong gater when we signed him, we knew he can jump out of the traps on these tighter, more technical tracks, and he’s difficult to pass. If we’re going to single out one rider it would be paid-nine from Justin – he certainly did his job and he’ll be happy with his night’s work.”

The Lions are back on the road on Easter Monday when they travel to Peterborough in their first Premiership league match, before hosting the Panthers at the Pidcock Motorcycles Arena, Beaumont Park next Thursday.

IPSWICH 48: Jason Doyle 14+1, Emil Sayfutdinov 12+1, Danny King 10, Keynan Rew 4, Danyon Hume 4, Erik Riss 2+2, Joe Thompson 2+2.
LEICESTER 42: Max Fricke 9+1, Chris Harris 8+1, Justin Sedgmen 8+1, Nick Morris 7, Richard Lawson 5+1, Jake Allen 4+1, Dan Thompson 1+1.

Photo credit: JEFF HIGGOTT

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