MATCH REPORT: Stars round off Division 1 campaign with victory
Report by Rob Mawhood, photo by Priya Whitley
Sheffield Stars closed out their 2023 North and Scotland League Division One campaign with a 94-85 derby victory over Hull at a Graves track bathed in Autumn sunshine. Hull named the team that won the Yorkshire League title last Sunday, while Sheffield named a strong line-up that included lucky talisman Dariusz Pilas (Stars are unbeaten in 2023 when Dariusz is in the line-up) plus recent returnees Simon Gamble and Leon Wild (who last rode together in 2008).
Hull’s big guns, Lewis Foxley, Nathan Everett and Jack Lister won the first three races, with Sheffield riders ensuring the minor placings for 5-5 drawn heats. Pilas was Sheffield’s first race winner in heat 4, the heat again a 5-5 drawn heat when Noah Lyon capitalized on an error (slipped pedal) by Simon Gamble on the final lap. Sheffield went ahead for the first time with a 6-3 in heat five, following an exclusion to Foxley who slid and locked up on turn three of the first lap causing the close following Niall Morton to crash. Richard Gibson holding out Jack Brownell to minimalize the damage.
Sheffield’s first maximum heat win came in heat 6. A first bend slip by Lister allowed Pilas and Wild to race away for the 7 points, Stars now led by 33-26. Heat 7 saw all four riders swap positions on the first lap before the race settled into a Hull 6-4 with Gibson the race winner. A drawn heat saw the teams reach half-time with Sheffield ahead by 42-37. Sheffield increased their lead to nine in heat nine with a maximum 7 points after Pilas and Kyle Holland gated round Everett (on grid one). Three 5-5 drawn heats followed before Hull got their first 7-3 maximum in heat 13 with Everett and Gibson executing the perfect first bend and then racing away to beat Wild/Pilas. Sheffield hit straight back with a 7-3 maximum from Gamble/Holland to re-establish the nine point cushion. Another Hull seven points looked on the cards as Foxley and Lister sped from the tapes in heat 15. Lister though slipped and fell on the exit of turn two under pressure from both Brownell and Wild. Sheffield leading 79-70 as the teams entered the nominated heats. Morton completed a great performance
when winning heat 16, he was the only rider on the day to put together six untroubled rides. Foxley and Lister teamed up for Hull’s second 7 pointer in heat 17, barring an exclusion Sheffield had secured the match points. Hull elected to give young reserve Harry Gibson an outing in the final race, Sheffield gaining their fourth seven pointer (and third with Pilas) as Pilas and Wild confirmed the match points. The win saw Sheffield overtake Fife for the Division One runners up spot (both teams finished the season with 5-3 records), leaving the Stars to regret being unable to field their top riders in all fixtures.
Sheffield (94) – Leon Wild 16+3, Dariusz Pilas 18+2, Jack Brownell 13, Kyle Holland 16+3, Niall Morton 20+2, Simon Gamble 9, Kieran Hale 2, Oliver Banyard DNR
Hull (85) – Lewis Foxley 17+2, Noah Lyon 11+1, Richard Gibson 15+1, Nathan Everett 16+1, Jack Lister 18, Liam Bennett 7+1, Harry Gibson 1.
Referee – Rob Mawhood