MATCH REPORT: Horspath open league campaign with win over Newport
Last Sunday (April 29) the Horspath Hammers welcomed the Newport Stars to the Recreation Ground, for their opening South West and Wales regional league fixture.
With Newport having won the previous five league competitions, they showed their intent in retaining the league title, by sending a very strong team of 8, including flying in two top Polish riders Adam Bozewicz and World Junior finalist Jakub Koshienca.
Horspath tracked the available Lukasz Nowacki for the first time this season, so on paper the sides looked very even and as strong as they could be.
On a heavy, grippy track, following the recent awful weather, the teams couldn’t be split after three opening drawn heats racing. The meeting suddenly burst in to life in heat 4 when Newports, and ex Hammer, Mark Carmichael was excluded for illegal use of the leg, a decision he was clearly not happy with after remonstrating on track with referee Vince Ellis.
After matters had calmed down the Hammers duo of Zac Payne and Andy Johnson raced to a 7-2 heat advantage over Joe Lewis to open up a 5 point lead. The meeting remained very close with heat advantages from the Payne and Dave Liebermann pairing and the Nowacki and Will Jeffery pairing, increasing the lead to 11 points at the interval.
Jake Neighbour continued to make the moves and assist Jack Ellis with some perfect team riding, allowing young Ellis to race away in front to build up his own tally and contribute massively to the team score.
The half time team talk was simple, protect your positions and race with your heads as drawn heats would now win the day. The home pairings had been worked out well, as the Hammers did exactly that to maintain the lead in to the latter stages.
With Adam Bennett racing hard for his points and the two Polish riders proving their worth for the Stars, the Hammers were made to work very hard, which to a man they did. A late 7-3 heat win for Jeffery and evergreen Andy Johnson settled the home nerves in heat 14, but the very next heat Nowacki was excluded for being the cause of the stoppage after a robust challenge on the ever lively youngster Sean Bennett.
The resulting 7-2 in the re-run from Bennett and Lewis, over the improving home reserve Owen Johnson, brought the scores back to a slim 8 point lead. The Hammers rode out the final races, drawing all three, to maintain the points difference with a final score of 93-85.
Credit to both teams for an excellent meeting, with plenty of incidents, quick racing and clever team riding on both sides.
Zac Payne 18+1, Dave Liebermann 8+1, Lukasz Nowacki 15, Will Jeffery 10+3, Jack Ellis 15, Jake Neighbour 10+3, Andy Johnson 10+1, Owen Johnson 7
Mark Carmichael 10+1, Chris Davies 11, Jakub Koshienca 16+2, Adam Bozewicz 15, Adam Bennett 15+1, Sean Bennett 8, Joe Lewis 6+1, Callum Goward 4