MATCH REPORT: Stars defeated as A&T remain in title hunt
Sheffield were back to full strength for the visit of Astley & Tyldesley to Cookson for this North & Scotland League One match. Team Green were too strong a unit as they inflicted a sixth successive defeat on the Stars by 99-80, Sheffield’s heaviest home defeat of the season.
Reece Pollitt sped away to win heat 1, and with Mick Knowles making a trademark inside pass on Laura Watson A&T went into a lead they would not relinquish. Astley had named Polish rider Marcin Jakubiak at reserve and he was a tactical replacement to partner former Stars rider Kyle Holland in heat 2.as
The large A&T following fell silent as Ed Morton sped from the gate for a deserved race win. The Team Green banners would soon be waving though. Ed kept Reece in last place in a very tactical heat 4, the drawn heat leaving just two points between the teams.
The first 7-3 came in the next race. Astley’s Kyle Holland sweeping round the outside on turn one to join Paul Graham. The next 7-3 was a Sheffield one. Ed and Adam Watson racing away from Max Evans/Mark Grantham in heat 9, sending the teams into the interval with the score at 42-48.
Heat 10 followed the exact path of heat one, with the same pairings getting the same result. Reece sped away from Niall Morton, with Mick again executing a fine pass on Laura. Astley increased the lead to ten points with a 6-4 from Marcin/Kyle over Ed/Adam in heat 11, Kyle steaming through on the inside of Ed on the final corner.
Sheffield edged a point closer after Max was excluded for movement at the tapes in heat 12. Ciaran Collins taking an important win to restrict the loss to just a 4-5 heat result.
Astley then really moved into overdrive as they scored maximum 7-3’s in three of the next four races. With the League points safely in the bag Team Green were now looking for a three figure score. Marcin won his fifth race in heat 17. However, Ed and Adam responded with their second 7-3 maximum in heat 18, which left Astley on 99.
The result keeps Astley in the title race with Stockport and leaves Sheffield in a three-way battle to avoid the basement position. The Stars actually moved up a place, with Hull resoundingly beaten at Edinburgh.
The Falcons are both clubs next opponents. In two weeks’ time, A & T welcome the League Champions to Gin Pit, the week after Sheffield visit Redbraes for their penultimate match of the season.
Today though it was strength in depth that counted. Sheffield are relying heavily on Ed (three wins, but two lasts), Niall (no wins, but six second places) and Adam (one win and two assisted wins). A&T were solid throughout. Paul Graham was unbeaten by a Stars rider, Marcin had five wins, Reece three wins, Ciaran two wins and a win each for Mick and Kyle.
Niall Morton 18, Laura Watson 4, Ed Morton 16+1,Niamh Morton 6, Luke Morton 10, Sam Haines 9+1, Adam Watson 17+4, Kielan Burton DNR
Astley & Tyldesley 99
Reece Pollitt 19+2, Mick Knowles 10, Kyle Holland 15+2, Paul Graham 11+1, Max Evans 7, Mark Grantham 5+1, Marcin Jakubiak 23, Ciaran Collins 9, Matt Snell DNR, Emily Burgess DNR.
Referee – ROB MAWHOOD
The Division Two match saw Astley win by 78-71, and with Bury drawing at home to Stockport they move to within one point of the Comets at the top of the table. Sheffield slipped down one place after Edinburgh beat Hull, the Falcons being the Stars next opponents.
Sam Haines streaked away to win the first race by a country mile, Max Evans content to shepherd Ben Forshaw home ahead of Niamh Morton. Team Green then went into a lead they would never surrender, as Matt Snell/Mark Grantham combined for a 7-3 maximum of outside grids.
The pattern of the next six heats saw Sheffield gain 5-5’s of their ins, with A & T taken 6-4’s of their ins. That pattern ended in heat 9. From Sheffield’s outs Niamh Morton led all the way for her only race win. Behind, the previously unbeaten Matt Snell fell heavily on the last lap, his front wheel sliding away on the exit of turn two (the hot conditions taking its first casualty, Matt sitting out his last ride while icing the injury). The resulting 6-4 for the Stars making the scores 41-49.
The match was still evenly poised when the divining incident happened in heat 12. Sheffield looked set for a 6-4 from Laura Watson/Kielan Burton over Mick Knowles/Emily Burgess.
Mick had been showing all of his Cookson knowledge, with two trademark inside drop passes over Laura in the Division One match. Again he lined up for the pass entering lap three. Laura though had looked to block the move when the two crashed heavily on turn 3, with Kielan coming down as well. Laura was adjudged to be the cause of the crash and disqualified from the re-run. Mick duly took the win, while Kielan kept Emily at bay, the 6-3 giving Astley a 65-54 lead.
Mark Grantham then gave Sam his only defeat in heat 13, with Astley confirming the league points. Laura teamed up with Logan Perkins for a Stars 7-3 in heat 14, but it was too late for Sheffield. Luke Morton completed a fine personal match with a win in heat 15, withstanding the efforts of both Max and Mick from Astley.
Sam Haines 15, Niamh Morton 10+1, Luke Morton 15+1, Logan Perkins 11, Kielan Burton 9+1, Laura Watson 9+2, Alice Unwin 2.
Max Evans 14+2, Ben Forshaw 6, Mark Grantham 15+2, Matt Snell 13, Mick Knowles 14, Emily Burgess 10, Mark Brundreth 2, Tom Morrissey 4+1.
Referee NIALL MORTON
Astley showed why they are the number one team for recruitment in the North and Scotland region as they brought eleven riders over the Pennines to compete in the Division Three match.
The Stars had George Martin race in the under 10’s. George though was down on the power he showed at training the day before. Duncan Whalley and Aiden Green provided the fireworks with the two most entertaining races of the day.
Both riders rode flat out for all three laps, with Aiden pulling off two delightful inside passes to claim four wins from four rides. In the under 13s it was Kielan Burton and Logan Perkins who were in unbeatable form. Both scored four ride maximums, as the draw kept them apart.
Kielan has now raced through twelve matches without defeat, next up is a tough looking encounter at Redbraes against the Edinburgh Falcons under 13’s.
Under 10 Scorers
George Martin 8
Aiden Green 16, Duncan Whalley 14, Fraser Brundreth 13, Daniel Johnson 10, Lucy Grantham 9, Sabrina Evans 6.
Kielan Burton 16, Logan Perkins 16
Jack Murray 12, Charlie Burgess 11, Tom Morrissey 9, Deon Dickinson 8
Referee – DAVE SHOAT