Speedway: Stoke hopes all but over
STOKE Easy Rider Potters' hopes of finishing the season with silverware were all but ended following a heavy 54-37 National Trophy defeat by Mildenhall Fen Tigers.
The loss at Loomer Road on Saturday left the Potters seven points adrift of Mildenhall... although they can only draw level with them with big wins in the return fixture on October 31 and against Isle of Wight on Sunday.
Even then, Stoke would require a huge swing in the 'points for' and 'points against' columns for them to finish in top spot.
The Fen Tigers eased in to a 22-13 lead after six races, while Stoke had lost Andy Braithwaite after a fall on the first turn in heat four.
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Stoke skipper Tony Atkin was the Potters' first race winner in heat seven after he produced a good ride to squeeze by Joe Jacobs and, like buses, a second Stoke victory came in the next race as Liam Carr got plenty of drive from the outside gate to head Daniel Halsey.
Fen Tigers' reserve, 16-year-old Josh Bates, took victory in heat nine before an alarming-looking crash in heat 10 caused tempers to fray.
Potters guest Gary Irving, out as a tactical rider, appeared to come under Halsey between turns three and four on the opening lap and both riders catapulted in to the air.
Halsey was quickly up and vented his feelings to Irving who was still on the track and that led to various people from both camps getting involved.
Mildenhall extended their lead as Jacobs won the re-run of heat 10 and heat 12, with Bates showing a real liking on his first competitive meeting at Loomer Road by out-gating Atkin in heat 11.
Atkin and Reade won heats 13 and 14, but Jacobs and Stefan Nielsen racked up maximum points in the final race.
Liam Carr, who scored five points from his last two rides after failing to score in his first two, said: "Apart from tightening up the clutch and racing harder rather than sitting back I really didn't do anything different all night.
"The track was a bit iffy on the inside and most of the racing was going on around the outside.
"I just couldn't get out of the starts early on, but once I realised where the best lines were I got out wide just as soon as I could.
"The bike felt good and I wasn't too displeased with five points from the number two position."
Potters team manager Malcolm Vasey, pictured below, was unhappy with his side's display.
"It's just disappointing and frustrating that we can't seem to gate and get out in to match-winning positions," he said.
STOKE 37: G Irving 4, L Carr 5, J Cockle 5, B Reade 6, T Atkin 12, L Rumsey 4+2, A Braithwaite 1+1.
MILDENHALL 54: L Kerr 8+1, L Blackbird (r/r), J Jacobs 15, D Halsey 7+3, S Nielsen 11+1, J Bates 10, R Terry-Daly 3+1.