MATCH REPORT: Hammers in driving seat ahead of final round
Horspath Hammers completed their home Elite League programme with a 112 -87 win over Coventry Sabres, who did not have Michal Sassek as expected, whilst Hammers tracked newly crowned Polish Champion Szymon Kowalczyk, who flew in from his previous days exploits in the Polish Championships at Torun.
Hammers were dealt a blow prior to the match, when Mark Boaler arrived too late to race, so young Will Jeffrey stepped up from no 9. Horspath also had Scott Millward finally making his belated Elite debut for the on holiday Jack Harrold.
The early heats saw an even contest. The Hammers’ Mark Carmichael, again showing his fine form in the black and red, Lukasz Nowacki, flying out of the gate, and Szymon Kowalczyk still on fire from the day before. However, C
oventry dug in with Jake Read, Andy Angell, Myke Grimes, Adam Watson and Ben Higham especially.
The Hammers were just 6 up after seven races, but a Nowacki/Lewis Osborne 7-3 in the 8th and two 6-4’s in 9 and 10 gave Horspath a handy 14 point lead at the half. Heat 10 saw the home crowd treated to an unreal pass by Kowalczyk round Myke Grimes on the final lap.
Coventry suffered a blow with Andy Angell becoming unwell over the interval following a rugby match the day before and had to withdraw. Carmichael and Zac Payne extracted full advantage of this with a 7-3 in the heat he was replaced, again the battling Myke Grimes making them work extremely hard for that after a forceful move by Carmichael.
Horspath steadily increased their lead, whilst Ben Higham got a fully deserved heat win in the 14th. From there, save for a gate exclusion for Nowacki in the 18th, it was plain sailing for the league leaders.
Mark Carmichael finally got his maximum after just missing out a couple of times this year, Szymon Kowalczyk finished off his Hammers campaign this year, dropping just one point, whilst Lukasz Nowacki was unbeaten other than the exclusion. Zac Payne looked much better racing with Carmichael.
For Coventry, not matching Horspath’s fire power out of the grids contributed to their downfall, a common theme for the Sabres this year. Myke Grimes top scored but it was still a mixed bag for the Coventry skipper, who was the only rider to lower the colours of the new Polish champion, only for Kowalczyk to get his own back a few heats later.
Ben Higham was traditionally consistent, arguably the rider of the season for Coventry, while Jake Read and Adam Watson got stuck in. Michael Baldock brought home his best return from the reserve berth.
With Wednesfield losing to Poole, just a point will be good enough to secure their tenth crown, however, with four riders unavailable from Hammers quality packed squad of 14, a shuffle of the pack will be required to ensure that.
M. Carmichael 20, Z. Payne 16+2, L. Nowacki 20, L. Osborne 11+2, S. Millward 10+1, S. Kowalczyk 19, W. Jeffrey 6, J. Neighbour 10+1.
C. Parish 5, J. Read 13+1, A. Angell 8, M.Grimes 16+1, B. Higham 14+2, A. Watson 12, M. Baldock 10+1, D. Drewett 3, M.Phillips 6.