Tuesday, September 26, 2023
CheetahsOxford Speedway

REACTION: “This is a great stadium and it’s a great club to be part of.”

JUBILANT Monarch Oxford Cheetahs extended their unbeaten run to six matches with a 58-32 annihilation of Plymouth Gladiators in their concluding BSN Series fixture at Sandy Lane last night (Wednesday).

Operating rider replacement for Jordan Jenkins – who remains ruled out for nine days by the concussion rules – Oxford were firing on all six of their cylinders, including a highly impressive 6+3 from Ryan Kinsley on his debut for Cheetahs.

Just a week ago, Kinsley had ridden competitively just once in the 12 months after being hurt at Mildenhall in May 2022 – an abortive return from his shoulder injury with King’s Lynn last September. But, after three impressive outings with Oxford Chargers last week, Kinsley has been given an opportunity with Cheetahs, while Luke Killeen is out with a wrist injury.

In just his second outing last night, in Heat 4, Kinsley flew out of the start and joined skipper Scott Nicholls for a 5-1, with Plymouth heat-leader Richie Worrall never looking like passing the 24-year-old Oxford reserve.

Kinsley’s sparkling Cheetahs debut was just part of a highly enjoyable meeting. Landslide victories can sometimes be dull affairs, but that wasn’t the case last night. Cheetahs soon flew into a 23-13 lead, but victory was in the bag with three heats to spare. The bonus point was won by a whopping 106-74 on aggregate.

No 1 Sam Masters completed an untouchable full 12-point-maximum. Scott Nicholls – a day after his 45th birthday – continued to show age is just a number, with a paid maximum (11+1), including a brilliant ride in Heat 7. After passing Lee Complin, he produced a thrilling outside overtake on Ben Barker alongside the home straight at the halfway point of the race. Nicholls has now already collected four maximums with Cheetahs in 2023.

Lewis Kerr made his return to Cheetahs, after a spell out with concussion. He nudged the tapes in Heat 3 and went back 15 metres, but then produced a thrilling Heat 5 that saw him storm from third to first, including pushing Barker aside on the back straight of the third lap. Kerr won three races and scored 11 points.

Cameron Heeps deserved won Rider Of The Night, for a double figure display (9+1). He shot out of the gate – alongside Masters – in Heat 1. He held off Plymouth No 1 Kyle Howarth, who fell awkwardly on the final bend and took no further part in the meeting. Heeps rounded Lee Complin to win Heat 8, and the Australian was a little unlucky when Heat 10 was pulled back while Cheetahs were on a 5-1.

Arguably, though, it was Cheetahs’ reserves – Henry Atkins and Kinsley – who stole the show, with paid 20 between then.

Devon-based Henry Atkins (9+2) was determined to put up a good show against his old club and didn’t disappoint. He was in the thick of the action all night, culminating in a brilliant Heat 14. Pitted against Plymouth’s top two riders, he shot inside Barker on the fourth bend and was also on his way inside Worrall, when Worrall pulled out of the race, as Atkins joined Kerr for a 5-1.

His reward was to be placed in Heat 15 alongside Kinsley, although a technicality in the rules saw the move initially blocked, Kerr and Heeps nominated instead – both of whom were already packing up their gear – the two riders excluded for two minutes, before Atkins and Kinsley took their places as planned!

Atkins was again all over Barker in Heat 15, but this time the Gladiator held off the plucky Oxford reserve, while Kinsley took third in a 3-3.

Henry Atkins (9+2) said: “It was a good meeting. I felt quick in the first couple, but felt I just needed a bit more pace, so we made a couple of changes and those seemed to work well. I was on the pace with the big boys, so I’m happy with that.

“To be racing against and beating Ben Barker, it can’t get much better than that. The equipment I’ve got is good and we showed that tonight. It was nice to be given a Heat 15 in the Championship and I showed I could be competitive in it.

“It was enjoyable to have a good meeting against Plymouth, my old side, and show them what I’m capable of.

“Oxford are getting the best out of me. Each week, I enjoy turning up and want to score points. There’s a nice calm feeling before meetings, and we just have fun and try to do well out on the track and it’s paying off.

“It’s down to the whole club, from the fans and the way they get behind us, and also down to the way that Jamie (Courtney) and Peter (Schroeck) run Oxford. We just need to keep it going into our league meetings. We’re after silverware this season with both the Cheetahs and Chargers.”

Ryan Kinsley (6+3) said: “I couldn’t have asked for the better start with the Oxford Cheetahs. It’s up with my best scores in the Championship and to do it in my first meeting back at this level is great. I’ve proven to myself that I can do it and I need to keep that in my head and keep on doing it.

“This is a great stadium and it’s a great club to be part of. I’m very grateful for the opportunities that I’ve been given by Oxford. Being part of this club has got me more relaxed when riding. There’s no pressure on us – they believe in us, and they know what we can do.

“Oxford have given me two opportunities – firstly for the Chargers in the National League and now for the Cheetahs in the Championship. Across the three meetings in the National League, I was paid for 31 points, and then to come into the Cheetahs and score paid nine is crazy.

“Everything seems to be working for me. I seem to be making good starts and then the bike is going well. Everything has just clicked and I wasn’t too worried that it was Richie Worrall behind me in one race – I was just riding my race.

“After my injury last year, I had one go at King’s Lynn towards the end of the season, but the body still wasn’t feeling up to it. I took the winter off, and then I didn’t get any phone calls over the winter. I then got the offer to ride for Oxford in the National League and thought that was a good way to come back. Then, within a week, I’ve also got the offer to ride for the Championship side. That’s come about due to an injury to Luke Killeen and I wish him a speedy recovery.

“My ribs are still a bit sore from a crash at Mildenhall on Sunday. I was struggling a bit after that on Sunday, but I knew the team was already hit hard and that I needed to carry on for them. I think there’s just a bit of internal bruising. But when the adrenalin starts to kick in, it’s forgotten about.

“Being in both Oxford sides will give me plenty of laps. Everyone did their shift tonight, while being given Heat 15 and scoring in it, just topped off the night. It makes all the hard work worthwhile.”

Monarch Oxford Cheetahs 58: Sam Masters 12, Cameron Heeps 9+1, Lewis Kerr 11, Jordan Jenkins R/R, Scott Nicholls 11+1, Henry Atkins 9+2, Ryan Kinsley 6+3.

Plymouth Gladiators 32: Kyle Howarth 0, Connor Coles 2, Paul Starke R/R, Ben Barker 15, Richie Worrall 8, Lee Complin 7+1, Ben Trigger 0.  

PHOTO: First bend in Heat 14. Henry Atkins (blue) came through in great style to join Lewis Kerr (red) for a 5-1 (pic: STEVE EDMUNDS)