OXFORD skipper Scott Nicholls was delighted, as Monarch Oxford Cheetahs commenced their Cab Direct Championship fixtures with a 52-38 victory over highly-fancied Redcar at Oxford Stadium last night (Wednesday) as they extended their unbeaten run to five meetings.
While Nicholls (13) and Sam Masters (10+3) led the scoring for Cheetahs, it was arguably a night where the younger members of the Oxford side shone the brightest – quite appropriate since the Oxford Chargers make their 2023 debut next week. Jordan Jenkins (7+3) scored many of his points from behind against his former club, while Henry Atkins (6) won his first race around Sandy Lane at Championship level in Heat 14, with Atkins being awarded the Rider Of The Night trophy.
While it’s way too early to look at such things, since five out of nine teams have even yet to ride a fixture, technically Cheetahs are now top of the league table.
While Oxford had scored 55 and 54 in their previous two home meetings, this was arguably an even more impressive performance against highly-rated opposition.
Cheetahs took the lead from Heat 1. Sam Masters and Cameron Heeps both made fine starts, and it took a real effort by Redcar guest Tom Brennan to pass Heeps for second place and restrict Cheetahs a 4-2.
The solidness of the Oxford side was demonstrated in the next three races. While Bears provided the three heat-winners, Cheetahs packed the minor places on each occasion.
Cheetahs then took control with a 5-1 in Heat 5, when Jenkins burst from fourth to second early on, to join Oxford guest Leon Flint – in for concussion victim Lewis Kerr – at the front, with Jenkins then fending off Brennan in fine style.
Luke Killeen was exciting to watch and he passed Connor Bailey with a burst of speed on the third bend of Heat 8 to take third, as he joined race-winner Cameron Heeps for a 4-2.
Bears placed Charles Wright – who scored two maximums last week – into Heat 9 as a tactical substitute, alongside Danny King, who had already beaten Nicholls and Masters. But Jenkins produced an outstanding ride to follow home King. Except briefly on the opening lap, Wright didn’t even really look in contention, as JJ restricted his old side to a 4-2.
Masters produced a beautiful piece of team riding in Heat 10. He burst inside Danyon Hume on the opening lap and then settled behind Heeps and blocked off both the Redcar pair.
Redcar narrowed the gap to six points after Wright and lively reserve Jason Edwards took a 5-1 in Heat 12, but then came the perfect climax for Cheetahs.
Nicholls and Masters took a 5-1 from Heat 13, with the previously unbeaten King well beaten in fourth place.
Heat 14 was the race of the evening. Atkins trapped, but Jenkins was last away. He quickly passed Jake Mulford and commenced chasing Danyon Hume. He first tried the outside, but then switched to the inside and managed to push inside Hume on the second bend of lap three. Hume tried to hit back, but fell at the end of the lap and remounted at the back, as Atkins and Jenkins took a 5-1 that had the crowd buzzing, most of whom will hopefully return next week to see the pair – along with Killeen – in action for Oxford Chargers!
King took a revenge win over Nicholls and Masters in Heat 15, but the shared race meant Cheetahs ended with night with a 14-point win – a good margin to take at least the aggregate bonus point when the two sides meet at Redcar on July 28.
Oxford skipper Scott Nicholls said: “I’m really pleased. Redcar are a good side and we’ve beaten them well.
“It was fantastic team performance from the whole side. We’re a seven-man team and all seven riders contributed.
“A couple of boys had a couple of off-races during the night, but that’s speedway. The important thing is that they dug deep and came fighting back and that was pleasing to see. No-one gave up and all the lads showed resilience and that’s all you can ask for, and overall, it was another very good performance from us.
“We’re all here to win every race, but only one person can, while someone has to come last. Everybody has put the graft in – that’s what we’re seeing this year with our team.
“Jordan rode with a lot of determination, rode with his head and made good passes, while Henry had a really good last ride and won it.
“Personally, my 13 points were nice, although of course you want to go home with a maximum. But when you don’t do home with a maximum, you want to stop all the opposing riders from doing it as well. Danny (King) is a good gater and a very good rider, so it was good when Sam and I beat him in Heat 13.
“We’ll go to Glasgow on Friday and treat it like every other meeting. Glasgow are a strong outfit, but we are too, and we’ve got plenty of momentum at the moment. We’ll just go there with our usual approach and do our best and see what happens.”
Monarch Oxford Cheetahs 52: Sam Masters 10+3, Cameron Heeps 7, Leon Flint 6, Jordan Jenkins 7+3, Scott Nicholls 13, Henry Atkins 6, Luke Killeen 3+2.
Redcar Bears 38: Tom Brennan 6, Connor Bailey 0, Charles Wright 9, Danyon Hume 1, Danny King 12, Jason Edwards 9+2, Jake Mulford 1.
PHOTO: Jordan Jenkins roars under Danyon Hume in Heat 14 (pic: LES AUBREY)