Elite League: Belle Vue Aces 48, King’s Lynn Stars 42
- Credit: Matthew Usher
A patched-up Stars outfit lost control of their play-off destiny with a disjointed display in Manchester tonight.
Lynn – who needed at least a draw to finish in top spot – did their utmost to prevail with three regular riders missing during a see-saw encounter against the Belle Vue Aces. But in the end a string of poor performances from high-profile men such as guest Chris Harris and captain Rory Schlein resulted in a 48-42 defeat against the Aces.
Rob Lyon's side took their fight to end up on the summit and secure their pick of semi-final opponents all the way to the penultimate race. However, the required heat advantage – which would have taken it to a last-heat decider – never materialised as the long-term leaders lost by six. The point they picked up was not enough to finish above Poole Pirates who ended with a superior points difference. And the champions immediately took the opportunity to select the understrength Stars going into the semis as they try to come to terms with the massive loss of heat leaders Niels-Kristian Iversen and Kenneth Bjerre through injury.
The Norfolk Arena outfit would have been keen to get off to a good start in front of the Sky Sports cameras. But that didn't materialise as guest number one Harris was excluded for touching the tapes as his night got off to a rotten beginning.
The visitors did respond excellently, initially, picking up heat advantages in the first three outings with Robert Lambert stunning Grand Prix ace Matej Zagar to take the flag in the opener. The lead continued to change hands throughout a nervy affair with only Coventry man Hans Andersen, guesting in place of Iversen, really firing for Lyon's troops.
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Fellow temporary rider Max Clegg did a commendable job at reserve in the place of Simon Lambert who was on National League play-off duty. But it was just the six points between them from Harris and Schlein that started to hurt the away team as the meeting progressed.
While Belle Vue heat leaders Scott Nicholls and Craig Cook enjoyed a string of heat wins and seconds, their Lynn counterparts failed to pick up a solitary win between them. So it was no surprise that a two-point lead going into the 11th soon became a six-point deficit that couldn't be overturned.
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Some sloppy mistakes, namely Lewis Kerr going too wide while his team were heading for a maximum 5-1 race win in the ninth, and Robert Lambert forcing team-mate Kerr to the ground in the 12th, cost Lynn dearly. As Andersen strode to four race wins – which will please Coventry ahead of their daunting semi-final against Swindon – Nicklas Porsing and Clegg couldn't do the same in the 14th. They were granted a lifeline when Paul Starke fell but former Star Richie Worrall won the re-run to hammer the final nail in Lynn's hopes of pipping Poole.
Belle Vue (number of rides): Matej Zagar 8+1 (4), Michael Palm Toft 4 (4), Scott Nicholls 11+2 (5), Richie Worrall 9+1 (4), Craig Cook 8+2 (5), Paul Starke 8 (5), Lee Payne 0 (3)
King's Lynn: Chris Harris 3 (3), Robert Lambert 6 (4), Hans Andersen 13 (5), Nicklas Porsing 5 (5), Rory Schlein 3 (4), Lewis Kerr 7+1 (5), Max Clegg 5+1 (4)