MATCH REPORT: Rockets run Stockport to the wire

Stockport came to Cookson in a match with a strong team compared to Sheffield’s redeveloping one. They were buoyed by the return of Ben Higham in place of Michael Preston, the league leaders and defending champions wanting to continue their stunning run of form. Sheffield knew it would be difficult to stop them, and so put out the strongest side available as Simon Gamble returned in place of Ed Morton.

Heat one saw a Sheffield 6-4 on the cards as N. Morton led Higham and Parrott led Eaton, but inside passes from the Stockport pairing saw the positions flipped as they took a 6-4 of their own. The next heat saw Holland round Norman to join Hudson for a drawn heat as Read took the win, whilst anything could have happened in heat three-first Sheffield looked to be taking a 6-4 until M. Lush passed Burke, but Gamble passed him back to allow the Sheffield rider back through for what looked likely to be a Sheffield 7-3. However, this time, J. Lush passed Burke and let his brother through, turning the race back into a 5-5.

Sheffield v Stockport 2015

Jake Reed and Richard Hudson do battle on the inside, while Terry Norman keeps a close eye on Kyle Holland. Photo by Ed Morton.

Heat four was another 5-5, this time off the gates, as Higham won from N. Morton with Brwon finishing third and Wright fourth, before Sheffield drew level after heat five with a 6-4 from the Parrott-L. Morton pairing from the Eaton-Campbell pairing. The away side retook the lead with a maximum heat advantage with the Norman-Read pairing from the Burke-Gamble pairing, but could not extend it in heat seven as N. Morton took a start to finish win from the J. Lush-M. Lush pairing, Parrott picking up fourth.

They did succeed a heat later, though, with the Higham-Eaton pairing from the Holland-Hudson pairing after Eaton passed Hudson as he himself was passed by Holland; but the Rockets returned the favour in heat nine, Burke gating Norman for the four points while Brown took third ahead of Wright, leaving the scores still tight at the interval at Sheffield 43, Stockport 47.

The racing was looking equally as tight after the interval with three successive drawn heats, Read winning from Gamble & L. Morton in heat ten with Campbell in fourth, Hudson holding J. Lush out the gate for the win as M. Lush took third despite pressure from Holland, and N. Morton was passed before passing back Read in heat twelve to relegate the Stockport rider to fourth, Norman taking third and Brown second.

But Sheffield looked to have caused a breakthrough in heat thirteen after taking the lead for the first time in the match. Eaton, Higham & L. Morton all tangled, Eaton ending up in the fence and being excluded for causing a stoppage. In the restart, Burke took the win easily, and then Higham slipped off, allowing L. Morton through and giving the home side a slender one point advantage. This was maintained and almost extended a heat later as M. Lush slipped on the first bend for Hudson & Brown to go around, but the Stockport rider passed Brown back and let through Campbell to make it a drawn heat. There was another 5-5 in the second of the reserve heats, J. Lush claiming four points and Wright the one as L. Morton & Holland split the two.

Niall Morton

Niall Morton holds off Jack Lush. Photo by Ed Morton.

Stockport were under pressure, and the Read-Higham pairing knew they needed something from heat sixteen. They duly took a 7-3 heat advantage straight from the tapes ahead of Sheffield’s Burke-Parrott pairing despite the Rocket pair’s constant pressing, putting Stockport back in front by three points. This was extended to seven and pretty much tying the match up for them in heat seventeen with another 7-3 after N. Morton fell when passed by Norman for J. Lush to come through to take the win, Hudson doing all he could but finishing in third. The final heat gave M. Lush the win with Holland a close second, although there was still action behind after Gamble dived and passed Eaton to square the heat, the match ending with a 93 to 86 victory for the visitors.

The home side pushed all the way and looked like they might be able to claim a surprising until three heats to go, but eventually Stockport’s tactics and experience shone through to give them the three points. Ben Higham scored highly, and was strongly supported on the points board by Jack Lush and Jake Read, whilst Mat Lush’s team riding was of huge benefit and Terry Norman contributed to two important 7-3s. For Sheffield, Richard Hudson & Niall Morton showed off their gating prowess, Kyle Holland had another impressive match, and Jason Burke & Simon Gamble used their knowledge to assist their team partners extensively. Stockport probably did deserve the win in the end to continue their massive unbeaten streak and stay in the lead at the head of the table being the only team to have won every match so far (after A&T’s loss to Bury), but Sheffield will be buoyed by their performance and, after racing both Stockport & Astley at Cookson, will be looking to put more points on the board and hopefully not lose another home match this season.

Sheffield 86
Niall Morton 13+1 (5), Matt Parrott 7 (4), Kyle Holland 12+1 (5), Richard Hudson 13+1 (5), Jason Burke 13 (5), Simon Gamble 10+1 (5), Vicky Brown 8+1 (4), Luke Morton 10+2 (4)

Stockport 93
Ben Higham 17+1 (5), Chris Eaton 8 (5), Terry Norman 15+1 (5), Jake Read 16+1 (5), Mat Lush 13+3 (5), Jack Lush 16+1 (5), Louis Wright 3 (3), Devon Campbell 5 (3)

Referee: Dave Shoat

Division Two

Sheffield 127

Ed Morton 10+2 (5), Jack Brownell 9+1 (4), Sam Haines 13 (5), Daniel Rushton 7+2 (4), Niamh Morton 10+2 (5), Joe Twigg 16 (5), Vicky Brown 6+1 (2) plus 57 penalty points

Stockport 75

Ben Higham 13+2 (5), Louis Wright 19 (5), Matt Lush 12 (5), Devon Campbell 12+1 (5), Jack Lush 19+1 (5)

Referee: Kyle Holland

Division Three

Sheffield 72

Stockport 0

Referee: Kyle Holland