MATCH REPORT: Lions clip Eagles’ wings

This one was billed as being the match of the season for the Lions of Hellingly and so it was.
The Ipswich Eagles arrived at the Lower Dicker recreation ground flying high at the top of Div 2 of the South East / Eastern league yet to taste defeat to date and been sweeping all before them. This included a heavy defeat on the Lions earlier in the season at Whitton, so a touch of payback time was on the cards with the Hellingly circuit a vast contrast to the Eagles track as pure speed was not going to win races at the Lower Dicker. An earlier start time was agreed by both teams as the local speedway team at Eastbourne were racing at nearby Arlington which accommodated supporters to attend both meetings. For the second day in a row, we were gifted with unbroken sunshine but temperatures far too high to race in comfort. One strange addition to the Ipswich team was that of the inclusion of Richard Fellgett as they seem to have an abundance of young talent. This, of course, was an eye-opener as Richard has a Div 1 average in excess of 3.00pts which automatically carries a 15pt penalty. Nevertheless, a blockbuster of a meeting was all set to go, Eagles captain Gemma Hill won the coin toss and chose gates 2-4 to kick off with heat 1.
With the expectations of a close contest, Hellingly’s track specialist Martyn Hollebon was elevated to the No.2 spot paired with team manager Steven Archer. Martyn had an easy ride from gate 1 to take the win and Fraser Harris for the Eagles made light work of Steven Archer to kick off with a 5-5 drawn heat.
Heat 2 was almost a repeat, only this time it was Ben Clarke for the Eagles who had a tapes to flag win over Neil Hollebon and Jim Cox with Gemma Hill tailing off at the back for the second shared 5-5 score.
All changed in heat 3 with the Eagles tracking arguably their strongest pairing (on paper) of Richard Fellgett and James Porter against Ed Ridley and George Morley. As expected, Ipswich raced away for a maximum 7-3 heat win to bring the match score to Hellingly 13 – Ipswich 17.
Heats 4 and 5 were both 6-4 advantages to the Lions with Neil Hollebon winning heat 4 after a re-run (Ben Clarke for Ipswich received a warning from the referee for drifting his opponent to the extremities of the track leaving his partner Gemma Hill with nowhere to race) and Martyn taking heat 5.
In the next race it was the Eagles turn for a 6-4 with Fraser Harris and Luke Dunningham with Ed Ridley managing to split the pair.
Heat 7 was to become a pivotal point of the match with James Porter of Ipswich falling on the pit bend and bringing down Steven Archer causing a race stoppage and followed by James’s exclusion. Richard Fellgett won the re-run from the tapes, but with the result a 5-4 to Hellingly, the match score was now down to a single point advantage to Ipswich at 34 – 35.
With the racing now keenly contested in all areas, the match became very tactical as the following seven heats, including the much-needed interval, were all shared scores of 5pts each and the overall score remaining at a single point advantage to Ipswich after heat 14 (69-70).
Two races to go and it would have been a pure speculation to forecast the final result at this stage. The local supporters had witnessed some classic cycle speedway and were vociferous and spontaneous to both sides with their applause, but a result was still to be gained.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, the killer blow came in the penultimate heat 15 at the expense of the somewhat unlucky Gemma Hill. The race began with Gemma on gate 1, Martyn Hollebon gate 2, James Porter gate 3 and Ed Ridley gate 4. Such was the tenacity of the racing that no-one was giving an inch; the race had to be re-run 3 times. On the third attempt Martyn trapped across Gemma and was chased by James while Ed was sedately placed in third taking care of Gemma. After 2 laps Gemma cleverly found a gap on the inside of Ed on entering the first bend, but unfortunately, both got tangled up together with Gemma slamming into and hanging over the safety fence. The race was stopped again and as Gemma was the primary cause of the stoppage, she gained an exclusion. The re-run was a masterly display of cycle speedway track craft by Martyn Hollebon as he drifted James off the line allowing partner Ed Ridley to dive to the line, taking to the front and the win. James pressured and chased Martyn hard for all four laps but such was Martyn’s skill and experience no-matter how many laps, the result would never have changed.

Ed Ridley and the master Martyn Hollebon on their way to the only maximum 7-2 for Hellingly after 3 re-runs with Gemma Hill being excluded

For the first time in 15 races, Hellingly were in front by 4pts which meant a second place in the nominated heat would secure victory on the day. Ipswich named Ben Clarke gate 1 and Richard Fellgett gate 3. Hellingly had Neil Hollebon gate 2 and Steven Archer gate 4. Once again it would have taken a brave man to forecast the result, but up stepped Neil Hollebon to trap across Ben Clarke to take both the lead and chequered flag earning the Lions a 4 point victory on the day 81 points to 77.
It was a cut and thrust cycle speedway match enjoyed by both teams and spectators. Hellingly were the victors but the official scorecard will read Hellingly 81 (+15 penalty points) 96 Ipswich 77 which on paper does not reflect the close fought match.
We spare a thought for the young Gemma Hill of Ipswich who rode so extremely hard for so little reward while three times enduring the painful company of our safety fence with not a single complaint or whinge, one tough kid with much to offer.

Hellingly Lions 81 (+ 15 pen points for use of a restricted rider) 96

Neil Hollebon 21+1 (6 rides) – Martyn Hollebon 15+3 (5 rides) – Ed Ridley 15 (5 rides) – Steven Archer 13+1 (6 rides) – Jim Cox 9+1 (5 rides) – George Morley 6 (4 rides) – Harry Sexton 2+1 (1 ride) – Jamie Morley DNR

Ipswich Eagles 77
Richard Fellgett 20+2 (6 rides) – Ben Clarke 20+1 (6 rides) – Fraser Harris 11+1 (5 rides) – James Porter 10+2 (5rides) – Luke Dunningham 10 (5 rides) – Gemma Hill 6 (5 rides)