MATCH REPORT: Last heat decider as Aces lose out in thriller

For the second consecutive weekend, the Exeter Aces were narrowly defeated in a thrilling SSW league encounter at Cofton Road.

Despite an inspired challenge, against strong opponents, the Aces lost by a single point and it was a penultimate race exclusion for Exeter’s Aaron Herbert which brought the event to a controversial climax.

Despite an untimely Zac Payne fall in heat 3, Horspath had led throughout the first half, before the Aces fought back and took the lead when Dan Winchester and Craig Nethercott clinched maximum points after the interval ahead of Andy Johnson and David Lieberman.

Aaron Herbert inflicted Lukasz Nowacki with his only defeat of the day, in heat 12, and a further race win from Connor Tucker kept the Aces ahead. Then, the all-action Rob Geach joined Nethercott for another maximum in heat 15, the Exeter team looked set for victory.

The Aces hand was strengthened when veteran Dave Murphy marked his return to the team by winning heat 16, from Will Jeffery, with the impressive Owen Tidball taking third place ahead of Lieberman. This put the Aces’ six points ahead with two races remaining.

There had been a series of incidents throughout the race meeting, handled efficiently by local referee Dave Dart. However, it was in heat 17 that a decision to exclude Aaron Herbert for impeding Jack Ellis, gave the Oxford team an opportunity to steal victory.

Lukasz Nowacki, then shepherded Ellis home in the heat 17 rerun and suddenly the Aces’s lead had been pegged back to a single point.

In the final race, it was former British Champion Zac Payne who romped home to clinch victory for the visitors, with partner Jake Neighbour taking an important third place, despite the efforts of Nethercott and Geach for the home team.

Nowacki and Payne led the Hammers in fine style with great support from Jake Neighbour and Will Jeffery. But it was their all-round strength and determination which saw Horspath take the points in what was a great advert for cycle speedway.

Exeter Scorers:  Craig Nethercott 15+2, Dan Winchester 14, Connor Tucker 13+1, Dave Murphy 12+1, Aaron Herbert 11+2, Owen Tidball 10+3, Rob Geach 9+1, Lauren Hookway 5.

Report by Dave Murphy – Photo by Rob Geach.