Darts: Injured Naylor to miss Potters' season opener
RHYS Naylor was the only absentee when the new-look Stoke Easy Rider Potters were put through their paces at Loomer Road yesterday.
Naylor, recruited from King's Lynn on loan on Tuesday, has a collarbone injury and will miss the Potters' first couple of meetings – challenge matches against Isle of Wight on Saturday and at Dudley on Tuesday.
The 18-year-old is expected to make his Potters debut in their first National League match of the season at Rye House on April 9.
While most of the riders looked comfortable during yesterday's practice sessions, Ben Reade suffered an engine failure while Potters newcomer Dan Berwick struggled to get his bike going.
"We're not really sure what the problem is, but I'm nervous enough as it is and all this isn't helping," said the Kent-based 25-year-old, who arrived on loan at Stoke from Premier League Plymouth on Monday.
"This is an opportunity for me to get back in to speedway, but I also know there will be some pressure on me to score points.
"Having bike problems right now is the last thing I need, but we will get things right for Saturday."
New Stoke number one Ashley Birks believes the team looks good.
"If we get everyone going, there is every reason to think we can have a decent season and maybe even bring in a bit more silverware than last year," he said.
"The top four – myself, Jaimie Pickard, Richie Worrall and Tony Atkin – is as good as any in the league, and it is up to all of us to help the other lads in the team find their feet.
"This will be my third season in this league and my confidence is strong. I've had a few meetings already this season with Scunthorpe in the Premier League, and they went fairly well.
"Now I'm just looking forward to holding on to the number one race jacket with Stoke. There will be pressure on me to do that, but that's only good for the club."
Potters team manager Malcolm Vasey believes they have put together a team capable of achieving success in the coming months.
He said: "We have put a lot of time and thought behind the scenes into the make up of this side, and we believe it is one that can get on a winning run.
"We have Adam McKinna in the wings to help out as cover when Ashley (Birks) and Richie (Worrall) have clashes with their Premier League clubs.
"So, on the whole, we feel this is a side that can gel and work as a unit.
"The line up in riding order is Ashley Birks, Jaimie Pickard, Tony Atkin, Rhys Naylor, Richie Worrall, Dan Berwick and Ben Reade.
"That gives us a bit of strength with Ben at reserve and a very strong partnership of Pickard and Birks in the opening race.
"The time for talking is over, but I think everyone is keen to get going and doing their bit for Stoke."