MATCH REPORT: Coventry ride storm to take maiden victory

As predicted, the season opening encounter between Coventry and Ipswich Eagles did not disappoint the healthy crowd gathered at Hearsall Common, Coventry on Sunday afternoon.

The Eagles travelled with close to a full strength team, only missing Great Blakenham’s Adam Peck. Whilst Coventry included home riders Myke Grimes, Bobby McMillan and Mason Phillips alongside their winter signings on Elite League licences, including Polish junior international, Michal Sassek.

Michal Sassek impressed on his debut. Photo by Ray Andrews.

Michal Sassek impressed on his debut. Photo by Ray Andrews.

Fired up Coventry started strong with a 6-3 in heat one off outside grids, after Ipswich’s Jamie Chittock moved at the tapes, Charlie Rumbold limiting the damage to the Eagles by keeping Australian international, McMillan behind him. The Eagles replied by securing a 6-3 of their own in heat two, after Andy Angell was judged to have moved at the tapes, this time Coventry’s Chris Parish skilfully seeing off the advances of Matt Hill.

Coventry powered home a maximum heat advantage in heat 5, courtesy of the in-form Grimes/McMillan partnership to edge in front. Now with the momentum, the home side made their inside grids count with Sassek/Read and Angell/Parish securing a 6-3 and 6-4 respectively, whilst sharing the outside grids up to the break, to give Coventry a nine point lead.

Coventry started the second half well with Sassek and the impressive Higham securing a 6-4. But the Chadwick/Ashley Hill pairing took a 7-3 in the following heat to bring the deficit down. McMillan/Grimes duly hit back with a fine 7-3 of their own with a smart first bend over Brooke and Matt Hill.

The Coventry joy was short lived though, with Ipswich able to take heat advantages in the next three heats to lead the meeting by a single point. Sassek received his marching orders for moving at the tapes in heat 13, with Coventry conceding a 6-3. Then, quick looking Michael Baldock was unlucky to be excluded, whilst leading, for bringing Mower down with an unintentional leg, changing the positions of race. The re-run resulted in a 7-2 to the away side.

More controversy followed in heat 15, with Dan Pike’s dive introducing Mason Phillips the Hearsall Common safety fence being waved away by the referee. A lap later, Chadwick and Angell came down in a heap after the Australian appeared to fall first. Chadwick was quickest to react on the remount and followed Pike home for a 7-3 and the lead of the match for the first time for Ipswich.

McMillan steadied the Coventry ship in heat 16 with a tapes to flag win to share the heat. Grimes and Higham crafted out a fine 6-4 in 17 to take the lead of the match. Higham saw off Matt Hill’s strong challenge to hold third, whilst Grimes perfectly executed a fine switch coming off the pits bends with Chadwick taking a slight slip whilst trying to defend the line.

Ipswich’s hopes took a dent in heat 18 with Charlie Rumbold receiving his marching orders for nudging Angell into the fence. Sassek raced away in the re-run while Angell made a sublime pass on Ashley Hill to get a 7-2 for the home side going into the nominated heats.

Coventry's Andy Angell made a great pass on Ipswich's Ashley Hill. Picture by Paul Devine.

Coventry’s Andy Angell passes Ipswich’s Ashley Hill. Picture by Paul Devine.

After a toss of the coin, Ipswich decided to take the ins in heat 19. Grimes put in a big gate from two over Chittock on one, to all but secure the match, whilst Higham kept Cody Chadwick busy before coming to grief mid-race on the top bend.

Josh Brooke pulled an excellent last lap line on McMillan, who thought better of challenging the position and risking an exclusion, Sassek capped off an excellent debut by following the Australian home and concluding the match 100-94.

The vocal crowd were treated to a fine display of Cycle Speedway, especially in the second half after the Eagles’ spirited revival. It was a match that had everything, from passing to controversy and on balance, well controlled by referee Terry Ashford.

Coventry’s home grown hero Myke Grimes was beaten by an opposing rider just once, and his pairing with Australian ace Bobby McMillan paid off with three heat advantages. Ben Higham was Coventry’s man of the match though, with an outstanding team performance, which begs the question why he hasn’t been utilised in the Elite League up to this point.

Personal performances aside, the obvious team spirit in the camp was the match winning factor for Coventry, with each team member contributing and sacrificing personal glories throughout.

Grimes (left) and McMillan (right) managed three heat advantages together. Photo by Louise Walters.

Grimes (left) and McMillan (right) managed three heat advantages together. Photo by Louise Walters.

Ipswich’s first half performance dented their hopes of coming away with the points, but their second half resolve was impressive and came very close to edging it at one stage. Australian Cody Chadwick showed his quality throughout and Josh Brooke looked very fast  for the away side.

To conclude, Cycle Speedway was the winner here, with a healthy crowd enjoying the best of what top level racing in the UK has to offer. Coventry will certainly be pleased to have bagged their first Elite League points, they move on to Poole away in round two, while Ipswich welcome Wednesfield to the Whitton raceway.

Myke Grimes 21+2, Bobby McMillan 20, Andy Angell 7+1, Chris Parish 11, Jake Read 10+1, Michal Sasse 16+2, Ben Higham 14+1, Mike Baldock 1, Mason Phillips 2, Adam Watson DNR.

Jamie Chittock 13+1, Charlie Rumbold 9, Matt Hill 11, Josh Brooke 16, Ashley Hill 12, Cody Chadwick 19+3, Dan Pike 7, Leon Mower 6+1, Ben Harvey DNR, Alex Harvey DNR.

Referee: Terry Ashford