An immaculate five-ride maximum from the Lions number one rider Jason Doyle was not enough to save Leicester from defeat against the Coventry Bees in the return fixture at the Jordan Road Surfacing Stadium.
The Rapid Solicitors Lions started well enough that began with maximum points for Doyle and Peter Ljung after the race was restarted following an exclusion for Ryan Fisher who took a tumble along the home straight. A share of the points in the reserves race followed when Jason Garrity just held off a determined bid by Tom Perry after the two had swopped places earlier in the race. Then it was the turn of Leicester to hit bad luck when Simon Stead’s bike went ‘bang’ in heat 4 and the result turned a 3-3 into a 2-4. Nevertheless when Doyle and Adam Skornicki finished ahead of their opponents in the fifth heat the outcome placed Leicester six points ahead only for the Bees to post a 5-1 through Hans Andersen and Chris Harris.
The reserves race ended up with a win for the visitors and the outcome enabled Coventry to edge ahead for the first time in the meeting and from thereon they never let slip the advantage, winning another three races and sharing the points in heats 10, 13 and 15.
“We began well enough and I had every confidence in the team to compete on equal terms in the latter stages but to their credit Coventry stepped up to another level and fully deserved their win. We have a week now to regroup and prepare ourselves for the visit of Eastbourne on Saturday” commented the Lions Team Manager Norrie Allan.
Leicester 40 points: Jason Doyle 15, Peter Ljung 7+1, Mads Korneliussen 4, Simon Stead 5, Adam Skornicki 3+2, Tom Perry 5 and Max Clegg 1+1
Coventry 50 points: Hans Andersen 10+1, Ryan Fisher 7+1, Richard Lawson 3+1, Max Fricke 8+1, Chris Harris 10+2, Jason Garrity 9+1 and James Sarjeant 3+1
Both Lions and Bees fans had waited thirty-one years for this fixture and whilst Coventry won the match 48 points to 42 both sets of supporters left the Brandon Stadium with smiles on their faces as Leicester picked up a consolation bonus match point.
Coventry started the match with two heat wins but Leicester were poised to level the score in the third race only for Patrick Hougaard to slam into the back straight fence and in the same incident Coventry’s Kenneth Hansen was a faller.
Hougaard was withdrawn from the meeting and referred to hospital for an x-ray on his right wrist and thumb. Meanwhile Hansen also withdrew after two rides also in pain.
With both teams down to six a side the Bees went eight points ahead only for Jason Doyle and Peter Ljung to post the Lions first maximum score of the match in heat 6. Guest rider Ricky Wells then won the next race and with Tom Perry picking up a point the Rapid Solicitors Lions were back in the meeting and entered the interval just four points behind the Bees.
Leicester conceded five points in heat 11 but then a tremendous ride from Ljung who overtook the home rider Ryan Fisher kept the Lions in contention and Jason Doyle followed suit in the next race when he outpaced the Bees riders.
Entering the final heat Leicester were trailing by 8 points but were still in with a chance of collecting a consolation match point and nominated Doyle and Korneliussen but the Lions pairing had drawn the most unfavourable grids on the start-line.
Korneliussen though was fastest out of the start and Doyle had to battle for a scoring position which he achieved after passing Hans Andersen on the third bend to the delight of the large contingent of Lions fans.
“We have been threatening to open our away account in two of the last three fixtures on the road and I was really pleased with how the team applied themselves tonight” commented the Lions team manager Norrie Allan.
Coventry 48 points: Hans Andersen 9+1, Ryan Fisher 7+1, Kenneth Hansen 1+1, Kyle Howarth 14, Chris Harris 8+2, Jason Garrity 5+2, and James Sarjeant 4
Leicester 42 points: Jason Doyle 9, Peter Ljung 8+1, Mads Korneliussen 12, Ricky Wells 6, Patrick Hougaard 0, Tom Perry 6+1, and Max Clegg 1+1
Leicester have a double date with near neighbours the Coventry Bees this Easter Bank Holiday with first of all a trip to the Brandon Stadium on Friday. With three defeats on the road so far, the Rapid Solicitors Lions will be looking for an improved performance following their below par showing at Belle Vue on Monday when the team crashed to their worst result of the season so far.
“We showed real promise in our fixtures at Lakeside and Eastbourne but we just did not find our rhythm in Manchester. Not wishing to take anything away from Belle Vue whose 1-7 all delivered what was expected of them our Achilles heel was down to a lack of sharpness from the start-line. As a result we were forever in chase mode and it was hard going for our riders who were trying to find a racing line to make a difference” explained the Lions Promoter David Hemsley.
Leicester make one change to their line-up at Coventry as Simon Stead is required by Sheffield to race at Redcar on Friday. The club have booked Ricky Wells who will take Stead’s place at number four. Coventry meanwhile make one enforced change for the return match at the Jordan Road Surfacing Stadium on Saturday as Kyle Howarth is unavailable because he is committed to riding for Workington, his Premier League club and he will be replaced by a guest.
The back-to-back fixtures brings together the first league meetings between the two clubs since the Lions disappeared in 1983 and the matches will evoke memories of bygone days when the local derby clashes were the highlight of the season for Leicester and Coventry supporters.
“We had a fantastic turnout of fans for the Midlands derby against Wolverhampton last month and I can foresee a similar attendance for the visit of Coventry. There is an air of excitement amongst our fans and I am sure that the same aura is being replicated by many Bees supporters who themselves remember the days when Coventry last met Leicester. With two former Lions riders Jason Garrity and James Sarjeant in their side and the spectacular Chris Harris leading out their team there is plenty of talking points for fans to look forward to” enthused Hemsley.
After a season of pain last year which saw Coventry finish rock bottom of the Elite League table, owner Mick Horton vowed that this year would be very different in terms of results and he was the first to announce the full team before anyone else. It was a case of out with the old and in with the new as the Bees totally re-engineered the make-up of the team which meant there were no survivors from 2013. Though, like Leicester, the Bees have made an indifferent start to the season having picked up match points at Swindon but then lost three consecutive matches, one of which was at home to King’s Lynn last week.
Team Line-ups at Coventry
Leicester: 1. Jason Doyle, 2. Peter Ljung, 3. Mads Korneliussen, 4. Ricky Wells (Guest), 5. Patrick Hougaard, 6. Tom Perry and 7. Max Clegg
Coventry: 1. Hans Andersen, 2. Ryan Fisher, 3. Kenneth Hansen, 4. Kyle Howarth, 5. Chris Harris, 6. Jason Garrity and 7. James Sarjeant
Team Line-ups at Leicester
Leicester: 1. Jason Doyle, 2. Peter Ljung, 3. Mads Korneliussen, 4. Simon Stead, 5. Patrick Hougaard, 6. Tom Perry and 7. Max Clegg
Coventry: 1. Hans Andersen, 2. Ryan Fisher, 3. Kenneth Hansen, 4. Guest replacement for Kyle Howarth, 5. Chris Harris, 6. Jason Garrity and 7. James Sarjeant
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