MATCH REPORT: Woodley impresses to aid East London victory

After last week’s cancellation of the Cycle Speedway calendar due to the snow, it was all systems go for the Lions this weekend, with a short trip to East London for their first league encounter of the season.

The match was to be only at Div 2 level, as the Londoner’s had elected not to contest Div 1 this season. The Lions arrived at Canning Town with a full Div 2 squad, quietly confident as Dan Welch was back in the saddle and was captain for the day.

The rest of the side was very much the same as what finished the 2017 season. The same could be said for the East London team which had a familiar look about it.

Captain Dan won the coin toss and chose gates 1-3 in heat 1. The evergreen Ed Ridley elevated to number 1 in the team off gate 3, and partner George Morley gate 1, hopes were high for a good start.

It was not to be, as Richard Austin trapped across George and went on to win the heat, with Ed keeping Kevin Smith at bay, it was honours shared at 5-5.

Heat 2 had Nick Gunkell with an easy tapes to flag win for the Londoner’s from gate 1. One of the surprises of the afternoon was the ability of debutant Mike Woodley, who easily had the beating of Ethan Page to record a 6-4 heat advantage to East London.

Tellingly’s captain, Dan Welch, paired with Steven Archer off gates 1-3  in heat 3 against  the elder statesmen of Les Stevens and Dave Hughes no-one could have forecast the end result.

It was an outstanding 7 -3 heat win for East London to give them an unfamiliar score chart of 18-12 lead. All the nerves were settled as both Ed Ridley (twice) and Jim Cox (twice) came up with some excellent team riding, along with skipper Dan Welch (2 race wins) to bring the scores back to 46 East London 44 Hellingly at the interval.

Heats 10 and 11 maintained the status quo of a 2pt lead for East London. Heats 12, 13 and 14 were to be the turning point in the contest as Mike Woodley won 2 races and Nick Gunkell the other, all three being heat advantages to the Londoners to take the scorechart  to 75-64 with just two races to go.

The Lions provided both races winners but was not enough to change the result , East London ran out comfortable winners 84 to 75.

Credit must go to debutant Mike Woodley and Les Stevens of East London who rolled back the years to score a superb 18pts. In fairness Hellingly did not have an answer for such enthusiasm. Although the Lions were desperately short of practice laps they had to accept defeat gracefully.

The  top two Lions on the day being Ed Ridley and Jim Cox can both be proud of their efforts. Congrats to East London for a all round team performance.

East London 84
Richard Austin 16+1, Kevin Smith 4, Nick Gunnel 18+1, Mike Woodley 16, Les  Stevens 18,                 Dave Hughes 8, Harry Austin 4.

Hellingly 75
Ed Ridley 13+2, George Morley 12+2, Jim Cox 15, Ethan Page 4+1, Dan Welch 12, Steven Archer 10, Jamie Morley 8+1, Harry Ridley 1.