LEICESTER were held to a narrow 46-44 first leg victory by Poole in the first leg of their KO Cup semi-final at the Paul Chapman & Sons Arena.

The Watling JCB Lions have already won at Wimborne Road once this season and will need a performance of that kind again on Wednesday if they are to set up a Cup Final against Redcar.

In an unusual contest, the Lions made a sluggish start to go four points down to the fast-gating Pirates, before roaring back in mid-meeting to open up an eight-point lead.

But just when thoughts were that they could kick on into double-figures, the Dorset side mounted a rearguard action of their own and had nearly restored parity by the end of the night.

Poole provided the first four race winners with a major blow struck in Heat 3 when Steve Worrall and Drew Kemp raced to a 5-1 over Richie Worrall and Connor Mountain.

Lions had been under pressure in Heat 2 until Nathan Ablitt fell on the last lap, but they were 17-13 down after Heat 5, which saw their first win of the night as Richie Worrall defeated Danny King.

Nick Morris and Dan Thompson carded a 4-2 in Heat 6 and the home side hit the front for the first time with a 5-1 in Heat 7 from Kyle Howarth and Joe Thompson after Steve Worrall hit trouble when challenging Howarth.

The Lions built on that position with a run of three successive 4-2s as Dan Thompson, Richie Worrall and Morris all took race wins, and at 34-26 up with five races remaining, Leicester looked set to establish a healthy lead.

But the Pirates edged a 4-2 in Heat 11 and the Lions were in fact somewhat relieved to maintain their margin when Morris crashed out of Heat 13 before a thrilling re-run saw Howarth get the better of King on the run to the line for a 3-3.

However, the visitors pulled off a big result in Heat 14 when Kemp and Zach Cook secured a shock 5-1 over Mountain and Max Clegg, taking the meeting on the night into a last-heat decider.

Richie Worrall took the honours in that race but this time Howarth lost out to King and Steve Worrall, leaving the Lions with a slender advantage to take into the return fixture.

Manager Stewart Dickson said: “We’ll find out on Wednesday whether two points is enough!

“It was a strange meeting, and we started slowly which wasn’t totally unexpected because of the fact that we’ve not raced here for seven weeks.

“We then came back into it and got the momentum, but then we contributed to our own downfall a wee bit and let Poole back into it.

“They rode pretty well overall as well and it was a decent meeting, but I don’t know whether two points is going to be enough.”

LEICESTER 46: Richie Worrall 12, Kyle Howarth 9+1, Nick Morris 8, Dan Thompson 6+1, Max Clegg 5+2, Joe Thompson 4+1, Connor Mountain 2.
POOLE 44: Danny King 12, Steve Worrall 9+1, Richard Lawson 8+1, Drew Kemp 6+1, Zach Cook 5+1, Ben Cook 4+1, Nathan Ablitt 0.

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July 18, 2024 19.30

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