MATCH REPORT: A&T clinch tense Division 2 playoff to secure the treble

Report by Andrew Cox

Astley and Tyldesley edged out Fife Revolutions in a hard-fought Division 2 playoff.

Fife Revolution, the defending champions, faced Astley and Tyldesley who were looking to complete the treble of league championships. Both matches between the two clubs this season had been close affairs, each decided by nail-biting final heats.

Everything had been done to make the title decider fair. Northumbria Vikings’ Cramlington track was chosen as the neutral venue and Edinburgh Falcon’s Ewan Tulloch was called in as referee. The stage was set for a classic England Vs Scotland encounter.

After a nervy start from both teams in the opening heats, Fife increased their lead to five points in Heat 4 with the Lewis Allsop and Craig Hardie pairing. Fife held on to the lead until the half time break.
Team Green regrouped in the interval and their two top riders of Matt Snell and Emily Burgess lined up for Heat 7. Snell got away from the inside grid leaving Burgess to battle it out with Fife’s Harris Allsop and Vas Hill. Burgess took the inside causing the two Fife riders to clash. The referee was forced to stop the race and exclude Hill. The race was restarted with no inside Fife rider, allowing Snell and Burgess to sprint away to a 7-2 win. The match was back to level points.

The next four heats were even, and so for the third time this season the match went down to a nail-biting final heat decider. There had been nothing between the two teams in all season. Whichever team won the heat would win the championship – the pressure was on the four riders.

Both Craig Hardie and Matt Snell moved on the gate – noise from the adjacent football match had put the riders off, so all four riders lined up for the restart. The tapes went up again and A&T’s Snell was quickest off the gate ahead of Fife’s Hardie. It was looking like another 5 all heat before Hardie summoned a burst of speed on the final lap to attempt a do-or-die undertake. There was no room – Snell held his line and Hardie ended up on the centre green. Hardie’s frustration was clear to see and led to him being excluded. A&T won the championship decider by a slender three point margin.

The match definitely lived up to expectations with all riders giving it their all. A&T’s youngster Matt Snell was highest scorer with 23 points; a fantastic achievement in his first season back in cycle speedway after a break. Astley and Tyldesley end the season as treble winners, adding the North and Scotland Division 2 title to the Division 1 and 3 Championships already in their 2019 trophy cabinet.

Fife will no doubt be disappointed that they couldn’t hold on to their first-half lead. But there is plenty for their riders to be proud of – three top 3 finishes for a club that’s only been competing for three years is some achievement. They will be out to regain their crown next season.

A&T 60

Matt Snell: 23; Emily Burgess: 12; Mark Grantham: 10; Mick Knowles: 7; John White: 6; Lee Philips: 2; Charlie Burgess: DNR.

Fife Revolutions 57

Craig Hardie: 15; Vas Hill: 14; Lewis Allsop: 13; Harris Allsop: 12; Harry Langdale: 3; Victor Hill: DNR; Jake Ferguson: DNR; Kayden Davidson: DNR

Referee – Ewan Tulloch (Edinburgh)