MATCH REPORT: Lions Division 2 title bid comes to an end
Report by Brian Davison
With the “Lions” of Hellingly making their longest trip of the league season to Eaton Park to take on the Stars of Norwich expectations of a close and hard-fought contest was the order of the day. This was the final league match in Div 2 for the Stars, so the result was not going to change from their mid-table position. For the “Lions”, it was a different story altogether as they had only tasted defeat on one occasion in six league matches, so we’re hungry for another win. On paper, there was little to choose between both teams, with Hellingly feeling quietly confident but nkew a victory was not going to be one-way traffic. The coin toss was won by Norwich and elected to go off gates 1-3 in heat 1. The opening pairing for the Stars of Paddy Wenn and Chris Cullum was to produce the first shock of the day to complete a maximum 7-3 heat win after an untidy first bend over Steven Archer and Ed Ridley. Heat 2, and it was Hellingly’s George Morley who produced the goods by holding off the challenge of Gary Colby from the tapes creating a gap on the first bend allowing partner Neil Hollebon to join him returning the compliment of a maximum 7-3 heat win to level the scores 10 – 10. Two races completed, both maximums, but as predicted neither side was giving an inch as these were to be the only maximums to be achieved by both teams in the remaining 14 races. Heat 3 was a tapes to flag win for Jamie Medler for the Stars out of gate 1 with Jim Cox and Martyn Hollebon settling for the minor placings and 5pts each. Heat 4 was a win for Ridley over a quick looking Colby with Archer gaining a valuable third place giving Hellingly a 2 point lead. This was short-lived, however, as Wenn passed Neil Hollebon on lap 2 in heat 5, and Cullum drifting Morley wide resulting in him falling, it was a 6-4 to Norwich levelling the scores to 25 pts each. For the second time in three heats, Ridley won from gate 1 but partner Archer was somewhat dubiously drifted wide on lap 2 by Medler to once again keeping the score chart even. The following three races were also 5-5’s bringing the interval but with the score at 45 – 45 albeit a little controversial, the remaining seven races were never going to be predictable. Interval over and such was the tenacity of the racing and the racing formula dictated the pairings for both teams would change, heat 10 presented Hellingly with an anxious moment. Medler for the Stars trapped across Archer from gate 2 and went on to win comfortably. Morley for the “Lions” resisted the challenge from Cullum and looked settled for yet another drawn heat. Now bearing in mind, Chris is the wrong side of 21 yrs old and kept the pressure on George for 3 laps before passing him on the outside on the pit bend to earn the Stars a 6 – 4 advantage. The “Lions ” were now starting to look slightly anxious and to be fair fitness was starting to show. Heat 11 was yet again a disappointment for Hellingly with Martyn Hollebon expected to win from gate 4. After a fiercely contested first bend, Colby streaked away for an unchallenged win still looking very quick with Ridley unable to get close enough to make a challenge. Martyn Hollebon secured the third spot from Scott Colby but was looking tired and jaded. The score chart read Norwich 56 Hellingly 54, and heat 12 had the unbeaten Paddy Wenn on gate 2 with Neil Hollebon going from gate 3 and Jim Cox on gate 1. Paddy trapped across Jim Cox and also managed to hold off the challenge from Neil Hollebon at the first bend. A titanic battle between the two followed for 3 laps until Neil managed to pass Paddy on the outside at the pit bend to go on for the win (pictured below). Jim Cox for Hellingly relegated reserve replacement Tom Blackmore into last place earning a 6 -4 advantage to Hellingly, but once again the scores were level at 60pts each.
The next three heats were again stalemated as it were all being shared 5 -5’s which left heat 16 nominated to decide the match. As expected for Norwich it was Paddy Wenn and Jamie Medler, but for Hellingly it was not so clear cut. Neil Hollebon was an obvious choice, but his partner proved to be somewhat more difficult. Martyn Hollebon should have been the choice but he openly admitted to being totally spent which left Ed Ridley or Steven Archer the spot. After a lengthy debate, and it has to be said that even the Stars team were somewhat bemused that Steven Archer was the choice as Ed Ridley seemed to be the obvious choice. Tapes up and Paddy Wenn trapped across Steven from gate 2 with Neil Hollebon hard on his shoulder.On the exit of the first bend two races in one developed with Neil chasing down paddy for the lead and Steven taking care of Jamie Medear for the coveted 3rd place. All four riders were giving it everything for 3 laps, and on the exit of the pit bend Neil Hollebon made one small mistake which gave Paddy Wenn the chance to gain that extra yard. Paddy went on to win the race, Neil finished a dejected second with Steven Archer keeping Jamie Medler at bay the meeting finished all square at 80pts each. As predicted before the start the meeting could not have been more even, with only two 7-3 maximums (one each), four heats with 6-4 scores ( two each) and no less than ten races with a 5-5 point score. For Norwich, Paddy Wenn was beaten to the flag on only one occasion in 6 rides. Gary Colby had three good race wins late on in the meeting and Chris Cullum rolled back the years to score points at vital times. For the “Lions”, Neil Hollebon was his usual high scoring self having to succumb to Paddy twice in 6 rides.Ed Ridley, having his best season for some time had two very good race wins and Martyn Hollebon amassing no less than 5 bonus points in 5 rides (some sort of record there surely) albeit running out of steam at the end. To sum up it was a disappointing finish for Hellingly as the chance of the league title had now gone. There were one or two controversial moments which with different decisions at the time the result would have been changed, but to be fair were quickly dispelled and forgotten about. At the end of the meeting, it was congratulations and handshakes all round with both teams giving it their all resulting in a very honorable draw.
Norwich Stars 80 Hellingly Lions 80
Norwich; Paddy Wenn 22+1 (6r), Gary Colby 17 (5r), Jamie Medlar 15+2 (6r), Chris Cullem 12 (5r), Scott Colby 9 (5r), Kieran Legg 3(3r), Tom Blackmore 1 (1r), Dave Spauls 1(1r)
Hellingly; Neil Hollebon 21+1 (6r), Ed Ridley 16, Steven Archer 12+1(6r), Jim Cox 12 (5r) Martyn Hollebon 10+5 (5r) George Morley 9+1 (5r) Harry Sexton DNR.