LEICESTER are well placed to reach the National Development League Grand Final after holding Oxford to a narrow 46-44 win at Cowley on Wednesday.

No.1 Dan Thompson scored a brilliant paid maximum as the Lion Cubs put in a terrific effort to restrict the Chargers, with the home side never allowed to pull out a serious margin.

With a little more fortune on the evening, the Cubs could well have edged the first leg themselves, but the overall tie is certainly winnable heading back to the Paul Chapman & Sons Arena on Saturday.

There was a dramatic start to the meeting when Oxford No.1 Jordan Jenkins fell in Heat 1 after clashing with Thompson, enabling Max Perry to come through for a 5-1.

The Chargers responded with an impressive start from unattached newcomer Ashton Boughen, and their other reserve Jacob Clouting rode well to hold off skipper Joe Thompson in Heat 4.

Dan Thompson and Perry carded another tremendous 5-1 in Heat 5 to put the Cubs back ahead, before 4-2s in Heats 6 and 8 enabled the Chargers to turn a two-point deficit into a two-point lead, split by a win for Connor Coles in Heat 7.

There was controversy in Heat 10 when the Cubs were holding 3-3 behind Jenkins, only for Tom Spencer to be brought down on the last bend by Henry Atkins – but despite the contact, there was no disqualification for the Oxford man as his side gained a fortunate 4-2.

That put the Cubs under a little pressure for the first time, but they responded superbly with three race wins, a 4-2 from Dan Thompson and Perry in Heat 11 cutting the gap back to two, and Coles defeating Sam Hagon to win the next.

The Cubs then levelled in Heat 13 with a touch of fortune of their own with Dan Thompson having the better of Jenkins whilst brother Joe inherited third place when Atkins hit tyre trouble.

But the luck swung back Oxford’s way in Heat 14 when the Cubs gated on a 5-1 only for the race to be stopped due to movement at the start from the opposition – and the Chargers took their second opportunity with a win for Boughen whilst Jody Scott joined him for a 5-1.

However, the final race went Leicester’s way as Dan Thompson and Coles hit the front from gates two and four – and although Jenkins did dive inside Coles for second at the end of lap one, there was no catching the faultless Thompson out front as the Cubs ended with a 4-2.

Boss Dave Howard said: “I’m really proud of how we rode, and it’s a great result for us.

“They obviously had some strong riders and a strong unattached rider in, but we just kept plugging away, and to keep them within two points puts us in a great position for Saturday.

“Dan had a fantastic night with a paid maximum, Connor was really strong, and Max getting those two 5-1s with Dan was crucial early in the meeting as well.

“Overall everyone gave 100 per cent, and it was a great effort by the guys to keep it within those two points.”

OXFORD 46: Jordan Jenkins 13, Jody Scott 7+2, Jacob Clouting 7+2, Ashton Boughen 7+1, Sam Hagon 6, Henry Atkins 6, Nathan Stoneman r/r
LEICESTER 44: Dan Thompson 14+1, Connor Coles 11, Joe Thompson 8, Max Perry 6+1, Mickie Simpson 3, Tom Spencer 1+1, Vinnie Foord 1

Photo Credit: LES AUBREY

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