MATCH REPORT: Groves man of the match as Birmingham win

The Monarchs started their Midland League One campaign with an against the odds victory at East Park.

Missing senior riders Scott Millward, Carl Winwood and Andy James, it was always going to be a backs against the wall type of meeting, with everyone needing to dig in deep.

Heat 1 started with a home advantage as Ricki Johnson battled with Luke Draisey for 1st place. The Monarchs gained a point in heat 2 after Jamie Whetton got excluded for moving at the start, the Monarchs collecting the minor places.

Four drawn heats followed, all won by Birmingham riders, before heat 7 saw Nathan Groves hold off the ever chasing Draisey, whilst the evergreen Paul Timms made an excellent pass for third.

Timms and Johnson each won the next two races to take the match into the interval with just one point in it, 44-45.

Birmingham moved up another level after the break and remained calm, whilst the Wolves took 3 exclusions in the second half of the match. Winwood and Timms took a maximum in heat 10 to stretch the lead to 5.

Birmingham's winning team:

Birmingham’s winning team – Back row L-R: Nathan Groves, Chris Timms, Mark Winwood, Ewan Hancox. Front row L-R: Phil Widdas, Paul Timms, Ricki Johnson, Steve Hodgkinson. Photo by Paul Devine.

The Wolves fought back with a 6-4 in heat 11, however this was where the Monarchs team stood up to the battle, taking the chequered flag in all of the remaining heats, meaning that victory was going to be assured.

A tape exclusion for Draisey in the 12th was costly for the home side as the Monarchs gained further advantage with a 6-3, won by Winwood. Johnson won a shared heat 13 whilst Timms won heat 14, with Timms senior grabbing a third.

Groves and Johnson took a maximum in the 15th to virtually seal the match. Winwood took his fourth straight win in heat 16 to seal victory, before the Monarchs signed off with a maximum 7-3, Timms senior taking the win with Timms junior following.

The solid top 4 boys were immense, carrying the weaker team members and dropped just 4 points throughout the match. Chris Timms again rode to his second paid maximum of the season, whilst man of the the match was Nathan Groves, who was a doubt for the match having suffered concussion the week before.

Birmingham scores: Steve Hodgkinson 5 (5), Philip Widdas 1 (1), Ewan Hancox 8 (5), Mark Winwood 18+1 (5), Paul Timms 10 (5), Nathan Groves 18 (5 ), Ricki Johnson 18+1 (5), Chris Timms 18+2 (5).

The second team match required five of the senior riders to double up due to unavailability of several of the regular team members. Carrying a 25 point penalty it was always going to be a tough ask.

The team won on the day despite all of the top boys dropping races for the kids to race, so while on the day the Monarchs took the win the penalty gap meant the Wolves took the tie 69-55 (80-25 penalty points).

Birmingham scorers: Steve Hodgkinson 8 (2), Marc Phipps 9+1 (5), Nathan Groves 14+2 (4), Ewan Hancox 16(4), Mark Winwood 10+2(3), Phil Widdas 9 (3), Ryan Winwood 8 (4), Dylan Hawtin 7 (5).

In the Junior League match the Monarchs stole the last two races after being level throughout the meeting with all the riders contributing well.

Birmingham scorers: Marc Phipps 12+1 (4), Dylan Hawtin 7+1 (3), Connor Steel 7+3 (3), Ryan Winwood 10 (3), William Arkinstall 7+2(3).