MATCH REPORT: Stockport secure runners up spot

Sheffield’s final fixture of the 2016 Northern League season took them to St Thomas Recreation Park to face deposed Division One Champions Stockport.

The home team had seen the Edinburgh Falcons crowned Champions last week, ending Stockport’s impressive run of six successive titles. The home team were able to name only seven riders, with Mat Lush away at university.

Sheffield were without Rich Hudson and Kyle Holland, so Sam Haines and Niamh Morton were promoted from the second team. Stockport were in no mood to see the match as an end of season affair, carding six 7-3 maximums in the first half to have an interval lead of 55-35.

The only respite for the Stars was a second place for Niall Morton in heat 3, Adam Watson and Luke Morton gaining a 7-2 over Michael Preston in heat 5 and then Vicky Brown/Ed Morton keeping Louis Wright at the back in heat 9 for the only tied race in the first half.

Stockport came out after the interval all refreshed and they raced to four successive 7-3 maximum’s, which had secured the hosts the match points as early as heat 13. Niall Morton won heat 14 for the Stars to break the run of maximums and then Jake Read finished last behind Vicky Brown/Niamh Morton.

Jack Lush and Ben Higham completed their unbeaten scores in heats 16 & 17 (as Stockport hit the magic seven point heat score in each race). Sheffield finished the match with only their second heat advantage, a 6-4 from Niall Morton and Adam Watson.

Stockport had recorded another six 7-3’s in the second half (for twelve in the match) to finish the season with a 111-68 victory and runners up position. Despite the loss Sheffield finished the season in fourth place (with a 7-7 record), which is better than 2015’s fifth place finish (when the record was 5-9).

Stockport 111
Jack Lush 18+2, Terry Norman 18+1, Michael Preston 18, Ben Higham 16+4, Louis Wright 15+1, Jake Read 13+3.

Sheffield 68
Niall Morton 15, Ed Morton 10+1, Adam Watson 10+1, Luke Morton 8, Vicky Brown 7+1, Sam Haines 6, Niamh Morton 6, Laura Watson 6.

Sheffield needed to win the League Two match to overhaul Glasgow and sneak into a third place finish. Stockport had to forfeit 39 penalty points, for the use of GB Internationals Ben Higham and Jake Read, and this greatly assisted the Stars in their 112-72 victory.

When Ben Higham and Michael Preston gained a 7-3 maximum in heat 6 it gave Stockport a lead by 33-26 and maybe the 39-point deficit would be overturned. Very sportingly, Ben and Jake then raced with the Stars youngsters (three of the team were under 12) which saw the scores remain close.

Sheffield eventually going on to win the match on the track by 73-72. Devon Campbell was unbeaten for the home side, with Michael Preston and Louis Wright both losing only once.

Sam Haines (2), Niamh Morton and Jack Brownell were race winners for the Stars, with Jack (at 10) becoming the youngest Sheffield rider to win a League Two race. Sheffield finished the season with an 8-6 record (exactly as 2015) to claim third place ahead of Glasgow, helped by a run of four wins from the final five fixtures.

Stockport finishing the season in seventh place, off the bottom place for the first time since 2012.

Stockport 72
Devon Campbell 19+1, Michael Preston 18, Louis Wright 17+1, Ben Higham 10+1, Jake Read 8.

Sheffield 112
Sam Haines 14+1, Kielan Burton 13+1, Niamh Morton 11+1, Ed Morton 9, Vicky Brown 7+1, Jack Brownell 7+1, Laura Watson 7+1, Joe Brownell 5+2.

Just one race was required to obtain a result for the League Three match (for under 13’s).  With Stockport not having any riders, it was left to Kielan to win the race from Jack then Joe to give the Stars a 9-0 victory. Sheffield end the season in sixth position on 19 points, with Stockport back in eight on 4 points.

Sheffield 9
Kielan Burton 4, Jack Brownell 3, Joe Brownell 2.