LEICESTER moved back into the ROWE Motor Oil Premiership play-off places with a convincing 54-36 home win over Oxford on Bank Holiday Monday.

Victory over the Spires vaulted the Watling JCB Lions back above their opponents and into the top four, and the result also sets them up well for the aggregate point.

Lions’ No.1 Max Fricke raced to a brilliant paid maximum with a classy display, and his partnership with Richard Lawson proved particularly fruitful as the pair combined for three 5-1s.

Six of the seven Lions riders won at least one race, and Sam Hagon collected three (paid six) on his home debut in what was a super all-round team effort.

Fricke and Lawson got things off to a perfect start with a 5-1 over Rohan Tungate and Erik Riss in Heat 1, and another maximum advantage followed in Heat 3 courtesy of Sam Masters and Luke Becker as they left Maciej Janowski and Charles Wright chasing.

Chris Harris became the Spires’ first winner in Heat 4 as he moved inside Ryan Douglas on the back straight, and the visitors gained their first advantage with a 4-2 from Riss and Tungate, split by Masters, in the next race.

But Fricke and Lawson hit straight back with a 5-1 over Harris and Craig Cook in Heat 6, and that put the Lions fully in control of the meeting.

Tungate won a tactical substitute race for the Spires in Heat 9 to cut the gap to six points, but Lions virtually secured the league points in the next two races.

A cracking Heat 10 saw Fricke surge inside Janowski on turns three and four to team up with Lawson for a 5-1, and the next race also resulted in a Lions maximum courtesy of Drew Kemp and Douglas, holding off the challenge of Tungate.

Wright won Heat 12 for the Spires but a fall for Cook enabled the Lions to share the race, and Leicester then provided the final three heat wins.

Two of them went to Fricke, who completed his paid maximum in emphatic fashion with a super second bend move in Heat 15 to defeat Harris and Riss, whilst Becker got the better of Janowski in Heat 14 to also end his night on a high.

Manager Stewart Dickson said: “It was a good response from last Thursday (at Sheffield). I thought we were due a good performance, and whilst I don’t like singling anyone out when your No.1 is going well it’s infectious and it runs through the team.

“Max (Fricke) and Richard Lawson set the tone, which was very pleasing, and everyone was nice and bubbly which is good to see.

“We had a very causal track walk, up until around the last 30 seconds when I went a wee bit heavier on them with what I expected, and I’d like to think I got a response to that.

“We need to find some consistency, and that’s been the problem. I don’t want us to fall back into that way again, and it’s my job to try and make sure that we don’t. This performance showed the riders can do it, but we’ve just been so inconsistent.

“I don’t think we should be battling down in fifth place in this league, but we have no given right, we have to earn it. I’m pleased with the score and the performance, and obviously 18 points gives us a damn good chance of the aggregate point next Monday.”

Lions are back in action this Thursday (May 30) when they visit Ipswich in the second leg of their KO Cup tie, facing a six-point deficit but going up against a Witches side who do have injury concerns.

LEICESTER 54: Max Fricke 14+1, Richard Lawson 9+2, Sam Masters 9, Ryan Douglas 8+1, Drew Kemp 6, Luke Becker 5+1, Sam Hagon 3+3.
OXFORD 36: Erik Riss 8+1, Chris Harris 8, Maciej Janowski 5+1, Rohan Tungate 5, Charles Wright 5, Craig Cook 4+1, Ashton Boughen 1+1.

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Leicester Lions V Ipswich Witches
July 18, 2024 19.30

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