MATCH REPORT: Astley take the win at Cookson

Both these teams lined up with sides that looked quite different to the same match last season. Damian Zareba, Radek Handke & Mark Mulvey made their A&T debuts, with Reece Pollitt, Ciaran Collins & Max Evans the young blood and Paul Graham & Lee Phillips providing the experience. For Sheffield, a young side featuring Richard Hudson, Kyle Holland, Matt Parrott and Niall & Ed Morton was built around the older duo of Jason Burke & Luke Morton alongside the returning Simon Gamble.

An Astley 6-4 was halted in the first heat after L. Morton clashed with Mulvey and fell, but the away side benefitted from the restart with a hard fought 7-3. Heat two saw Handke take the win from the Burke-Holland pairing for a 5-5, before N. Morton suffered a machine failure in heat three and left Hudson to split the Pollitt-Graham pairing, the Manchester-based side now leading by seven points.

Zareba took a gate to gate win while L. Morton protected Parrott from Collins to keep the gap at just that, while in heat five the roles were flipped as Gamble took the four points, but Mulvey protected Evans from E. Morton. Phillips fell chasing Hudson as Handke won from N. Morton to gift the home side there first heat advantage, albeit a 5-4, of the match in heat six; however, a maximum heat ride from the Pollitt-Graham pairing from the E. Morton-L. Morton pairing saw Astley’s lead extended to ten.

Zareba took a third win in heat eight, although he was made to pass Burke around the outside and Holland up the in the process, Mulvey forced to watch the exciting spectacle from behind. Handke’s third win of the day in the last heat before the interval was much easier, leading Parrott & Hudson from start to finish while Collins could only pick up the single point to share the heat, leaving the scores at the interval Sheffield 39, Astley & Tyldesley 49.

A 7-3 for Gamble & N. Morton from Collins & Phillips pulled the deficit back down to six points, but the away side hit straight back with a 6-3 of their own, Burke crashing out attempting to pass Graham whilst Holland could only take the three points behind Pollitt. Gamble could not continue his unbeaten score as he came second to Handke in heat twelve, Phillips holding onto third ahead of L. Morton to put “Team Green” ahead by eleven.

Morton pinned Mulvey to allow Hudson to take second behind Zareba in heat thirteen, before Pollitt held on to his fourth win of the afternoon from Holland as Parrott kept Evans at bay for another drawn heat. Gamble had two on the trot in heats fourteen and fifteen, but was only able to pick up fourth in each, first behind Graham & Collins as Burke took the win, and then behind Phillips & maximum-man Zareba, Hudson splitting the two.

This gave the Rockets a thirteen point deficit to claw back, and so they duly claimed insides, although this made little difference in heat seventeen as Handke claimed his twenty points, Holland taking second ahead of Graham and L. Morton, suffering yet another crash. The final heat saw Pollitt looking to be A&T’s third unbeaten rider, but he was prevented in doing this by the fast start of N. Morton, leaving him to settle for second and the nineteen points ahead of third-placed Burke and Evans, giving Astley a match win of 95 to 82 points.

For the winners, Damian Zareba and Radek Handke were both in fine form to take maximum scores, while Reece Pollitt lost only to Niall Morton and Paul Graham made a big difference, not losing a single heat he was in. For Sheffield, Richard Hudson and Kyle Holland deservedly top scored, and Niall Morton and Jason Burke would have scored higher were it not for a pulled wheel and a fall respectedly. However, the Manchester side were by far the better side, and this could be a season of differing fortunes for these two teams.

Sheffield 82

Luke Morton 7+1 (5), Ed Morton 4 (3), Jason Burke 12 (5), Kyle Holland 13+2 (5), Richard Hudson 13+2 (5), Niall Morton 12+2 (5), Matt Parrott 8+1 (3), Simon Gamble 13 (5)

Astley & Tyldesley 95

Damian Zareba 19+1 (5), Mark Mulvey 8+1 (4), Radek Handke 20 (5), Lee Phillips 6 (5), Reece Pollitt 19 (5), Paul Graham 11+2 (5), Ciaran Collins 7 (4), Max Evans 5 (3)

Referee: Dave Shoat

The Division Two match looked to be a very close affair with a single point separating the sides until heat thirteen, where Astley took two successive heat advantages to give themselves an unassailable lead and inflict on Sheffield a first Northern Division Two home loss in over two years.

For A&T, Ciaran Collins was unbeaten and Gareth Payne dropped just a single point to Vicky Brown, while Sam Haines rode a strong match to top score for Sheffield and Niamh Morton put in a very impressive performance.

Sheffield 69

Vicky Brown 15 (5), Niamh Morton 10+2 (4), Joe Twigg 11 (5), Rebecca Davie 8+2 (5), Paul Fisher 7+1 (4), Sam Haines 16+1 (5), Lee Cottam 1 (1), Jack Brownell 1 (1)

Astley & Tyldesley 82

Gareth Payne 15+4 (5), Mat Snell 13 (5), Ciaran Collins 20 (5), John Quarmby 12+1 (5), Max Evans 14 (5), Joe Quarmby 5 (4), John White 1 (1), Emily Burgess DNR

Referee: Kyle Holland

Division Three

Sheffield 70

Sam Haines 16, Jack Brownell 15, Evan Swarby 13, Logan Perkins 10, Joe Brownell 8, Max Fletcher 8

Astley & Tyldesley 121

John White 15, Max Evans 14, Joe Quarmby 13, Mat Snell 13, Emily Burgess 12, Charlie Burgess 11, Jack Murray 10, Max Quarmby 7, Ryan Fallon 7, Kieran Fallon 7, Jack Littler 7, Lucy Grantham 5

Referee: Kyle Holland