WSRA Oxford Chargers, powered by SD Timmo Car Sales, put in a valiant effort at Mildenhall yesterday afternoon (Sunday), before slipping to a narrow 43-45 National League defeat in a last-heat decider.
Chargers were missing both Jordan Jenkins and Luke Killeen. Jenkins is currently ruled out by the speedway authorities by the concussion protocols – despite it not having been fully confirmed at any point that he has concussion – while Killeen suffered a chipped bone in his wrist at Belle Vue on Friday and faces a few weeks on the sidelines. Incidentally, Jenkins and his mechanic were at West Row, encouraging and helping the rest of the side.
Leicester’s Joe Thompson guested for Jenkins, while Sam Woods came in as an unattached replacement for Killeen.
Chargers got their afternoon to an inauspicious start and were seven points down after just two races, after both Woods and Jacob Fellows were both excluded for separate falls in Heat 2.
It was a topsy-turvy and eventful afternoon and Chargers then took a 15-14 lead after successive 5-1s in Heats 4 and 5, firstly from Ryan Kinsley and Woods, and secondly from Thompson and Jacob Clouting.
In Heat 6, recent signing Kinsley crashed, after Mildenhall No 1 Alfie Bowtell lost control on the inside of him on the first bend. With Bowtell excluded, Kinsley continued in the meeting, despite a hefty knock to his ribs, while Chargers took a 4-2 from the re-run.
Heat 8 saw Chargers fall back behind, after conceding their second 5-0 of the afternoon. Jacob Clouting fell on the opening bend, while second-placed Woods then himself under increasing pressure from Arran Butcher. Woods fell on the final lap and pushed his bike home for the point, only to find the referee had already stopped the race, although strangely a race time was given!
Chargers went back in front with a stand-out 5-1 for stand-in skipper Henry Atkins and Jody Scott in Heat 10. Scott trapped, while Atkins came through on the second bend, and Scott then did a brilliant job in keeping Bowtell behind him.
Thompson and Clouting doubled that lead to four points with a 4-2 in Heat 11, before Woods picked up a highly questionable exclusion in Heat 12, after Butcher fell behind him. Atkins won the re-run to keep Chargers four in front.
Heat 13 saw the battle of the big guns. Bowtell led, while Mildenhall team-mate Complin flew past the Oxford pair on the opening lap, with Kinsley losing his unbeaten status in this race and Fen Tigers bringing it level at 38-38.
Scott flew around Butcher on the opening bends of Heat 14 to win the race, while Butcher then suffered from machinery problems, and Woods poached a point, as Chargers moved back in front with a 4-2.
With Kinsley feeling a little worse for wear, Atkins and Thompson represented Chargers in the final race. Bowtell and Complin soon took charge of the race for Fen Tigers, but Atkins never gave up the chase, until he lifted out of the final bend of the third lap and crashed into the fence. The race was awarded as a match-winning 5-1 to Mildenhall.
Speaking post-meeting, Jody Scott (7+3) said: “I didn’t score that well in my first two meetings for Oxford, so it was nice to have a good meeting today. I was suffering with tonsilitis earlier in the week, so I was running a temperature and wasn’t feeling too great at Oxford on Wednesday. I blew a bike at Belle Vue on Friday, but I finished that meeting well by winning Heat 14 and took the confidence from that into today’s meeting.
“I was focusing on making good starts today because that’s really important around Mildenhall. It’s crazy that I managed to beat Alfie Bowtell in one race, because he’s been almost unbeatable around here, so I’m really happy how that race turned out. In Heat 14, I knew the scores were level and I made sure that I won that race.
“It’s a shame that we lost by a couple of points. But there’s no pressure placed on anyone in the Oxford Chargers. We just go and try our hardest and have fun. I like that, because it means we don’t get distracted and can just go out and do our best.”
Team manager Peter Schroeck said: “I’m really proud of the lads today – I couldn’t have asked any more from them.
“There is great character in the Oxford Chargers team, and we’ve shown that by coming here today without Jordan and Luke and still pushing Mildenhall all the way. My thanks to Joe Thompson and Sam Woods for coming in for us.
“As far as I’m concerned, we won today even though we lost, because the lads have again grown and that’s what the Chargers are all about.
“For example, there was Jody’s Scott last couple of rides, where he held off Alfie Bowtell in one race – to join Henry for a 5-1 – and then he won Heat 14. Before that one, I just told him: ‘this is your race’, and he then went out and showed it was.
“When Ryan had his coming together with Alfie Bowtell, the handlebars went right into his ribs. He was winded and in a bit of pain after that. Had that not happened, I think Ryan would have had a clean sheet today, because he was trapping and riding the track well. We believe it’s just bruising and he should be fine.
“Henry was a bit disappointed after Heat 15. The lads do want to win the meeting, so he was trying really hard and ended up coming off. We did deserve something today, but I think we’ll pick that up when we have them back at our place in June.
“It’s been a really good day. I was feeling very deflated about everything that happened at Belle Vue on Friday. That was a very long and stressful day. But I got the enjoyment out of today. Not many teams will push Mildenhall around here as close as we did, while the track held up well.
“Don’t get me wrong, I like to see the team to win. But the Chargers are all about progression and we’re seeing so much of that.
“Luke Killeen is coming down to Oxford this week. He’s got a chipped bone in his wrist, and he’s going to have laser treatment. Hopefully he will only be out for a few weeks.”
Mildenhall Fen Tigers 45: Alfie Bowtell 10, Josh Warren 6, Ben Trigger 4, George Congreve 7+1, Lee Complin 9+2, William Richardson 2+1, Arran Butcher 7+2.
WSRA Oxford Chargers, powered by SD Timmo Car Sales 43: Joe Thompson (guest) 9, Jacob Clouting 3+1, Henry Atkins 10, Jody Scott 7+3, Ryan Kinsley 10, Sam Woods 3+1, Jacob Fellows 1.
PHOTO: Jody Scott, who scored a fine 7+3 from four rides at Mildenhall (pic: LES AUBREY)