MATCH REPORT: League champions Stockport, too hot to handle!
Sheffield 83 – 96 Stockport, Northern League 1, 9th March 2014
Stockport arrived at Cookson Park knowing they’d won here in their last match of the 2013 season, when they were unbeaten in the league and claimed the Northern title. Chris Eaton made his Stockport debut after five years away from the sport, returning to a side with former British Champion Terry Norman and three GB junior internationals in Jake Read, Matt and Jack Lush.
Winter signing Damien Zareba made his debut for Sheffield, riding alongside fellow Pole Radek Handke to lead the Rocket’s line up.
Sheffield got the match off to a great start as Niall Morton held Connor Simpson while Radek Handke passed Jake Read to give Sheffield a two point lead. A 5-5 in the next race for the Lush brothers behind Damien Zareba and then a 6-4 for Ben Higham and Terry Norman over Richard Hudson and Zach Smurthwaite, brought the scores level after three heats.
Radek Handke won heat four from Joe Pickford and Jake Read, and Chris Eaton won heat five from Mick Knowles and Niall Morton, before Matt Lush beat Richard Hudson and Jack Lush passed Zach Smurthwaite to put Stockport into the lead. Radek Handke took a third win in heat seven from Terry Norman and Ben Higham after a big pile up first time out, while in heat eight, Sheffield drew level after Damien Zareba won from Jake Read and Kyle Holland passed Connor Simpson.
Last race before the interval, and Joe Pickford held Zach Smurthwaite from the gate, letting his partner Matt Lush in for a 7-3 and to give Stockport a four point lead at the halfway stage.
This is where it all started to go wrong for Sheffield. In heat 10, Richard Hudson was out in front with Jack Lush in second, Mick Knowles and Chris Eaton battling it out behind. Eaton flew up Knowles inside on the second lap, Knowles taking a tumble and being unable to pull off the track, causing a re-run with only three riders.
In the restart, Lush passed Hudson and Eaton followed through, to give Stockport a 7-2 victory and put them nine points in front. Three drawn heats followed, as Damien Zareba passed Terry Norman while Ben Higham passed Kyle Holland in heat eleven, Jack Lush passed Niall Morton on the last bend in heat twelve and Jake Read won from Richard Hudson and Zach Smurthwaite in heat thirteen.
In heat fourteen, Ben Higham and Chris Eaton extended Stockport’s lead by a further four points as they beat Kyle Holland and Jason Burke from the tapes, Damien Zareba won from Terry Norman and Joe Pickford to keep his maximum on track in the next. A 6-4 looked on the cards for Sheffield in heat sixteen until Jake Read passed Zach Smurthwaite and Jack Lush once again dived Niall Morton on the last bend to turn the tables and 6-4 for Stockport.
Heat seventeen and Stockport had victory, but they couldn’t prevent Radek Handke winning to get his 20 points. In the final heat, Sheffield got their only heat win of the second half as Damien Zareba and Richard Hudson achieved a 6-4 from the tapes over Ben Higham and Chris Eaton.
Damien Zareba and Radek Handke achieved maximums for the home side, and were ably supported by Richard Hudson, while a gutsy performance from Niall Morton certainly deserved more points. Overall the Rockets just weren’t strong enough today for a very polished Stockport side that must look favorites to defend their League title.
Radek Handke 20 (5), Damien Zareba 20 (5), Richard Hudson 13 (5), Zach Smurthwaite 8+1 (5), Niall Morton 7+1 (5), Kyle Holland 7 (5), Jason Burke 4 (3), Mick Knowles 4 (3)
Jake Read 16+1 (5), Ben Higham 16+1 (5), Matt Lush 15+2 (5), Terry Norman 12+2 (5), Jack Lush 12+2 (5), Chris Eaton 12+1 (4), Joe Pickford 10+1 (4), Connor Simpson 3 (3)
Referee: Rob Mawhood
Ryan Harrison made his Stockport debut in a Stockport side that featured just five riders, against last year’s Division Two champions. Chris Eaton rode well for Stockport, unbeaten except for an exclusion in heat eleven, and was ably supported by Joe Pickford and Ryan Harrison, but they were no match for the Sheffield side featuring Matt Parrott, who dropped his only point after being passed by Eaton, Niall Morton, who was unbeaten in his three rides, and the good team riders Luke Morton and James Bunting, who rode well.
Matt Parrott 17+2 (5), Luke Morton 12+2 (4), James Bunting 11+2 (4), Niall Morton 11+1 (3), Vicky Brown 11 (4), Ed Morton (4), Paul Fisher 7+2 (3), Sam Haines 6+2 (3) plus 20 penalty points
Chris Eaton 16 (5), Joe Pickford 15 (5), Ryan Harrison 12 (5), Connor Simpson 10+1 (5), James Barry 5 (5)
Referee: Mick Knowles
James Bunting was unbeaten once again after being unbeaten through every Division Three match last season, while Sam Haines pulled off several good passes and Sam Turney showed how he is improving, while James Barry acquitted himself well as Stockport’s lone representative.
James Bunting 16, Sam Haines 14, Sam Turney 14, Daniel Rushton 13, Niamh Morton 12, Jack Brownell 11, Louis Jacobs 10, Logan Perkins 10, Matt Wigfield 10, Joe Brownell 9, Charlie Cottam 8, Max Jacobs 7
James Barry 14
Referee: Dave Shoat