Saturday, June 15, 2024

REACTION: “As a team, we’re just doing the same we’ve done all year and it’s a good crack down here – we have fun. We just need to take the form we’ve been showing into the play-offs and we’ll be good.”

MONARCH Oxford Cheetahs were made to fight hard, before emerging with a 50-40 victory over the Scunthorpe Scorpions at Oxford Stadium last night (Tuesday) that returned Cheetahs to the top of the Cab Direct Championship table.

Cheetahs have now completed their home regular fixtures – and Scorpions ran them closer than their previous seven opponents. Redcar, Poole and Glasgow all scored 38 points at Cowley – Scorpions went two points better than that.

Oxford’s win over Scunthorpe ended any hopes of Glasgow finishing top of the league table prior to the play-offs. Cheetahs are now a point clear of Poole – and both have one more regular away league match remaining. Poole are away to Edinburgh tonight (Wednesday), while Oxford travel to Glasgow on Friday.

Last night’s meeting was the first of a double-helping of action at Sandy Lane, with table-topping Oxford Chargers hosting Kent at Cowley tonight (Wednesday) at 7.30pm.

Cheetahs moved 26-16 moved ahead after seven races against Scorpions. Lewis Kerr and Jordan Jenkins took a 5-1 over Scunthorpe No 1 Ryan Douglas in Heat 5, after Kerr trapped and Jenkins raced around the outside on the second bend.

Scorpions hit back and took a run of three successive heat advantages and Cheetahs headed into the interval after 11 races with a narrow 34-32 lead.

But Oxford then dug deep. Kerr and 16-year-old Ashton Boughen took an excellent 5-1 from Heat 12, with Boughen coming to grief after pulling a celebratory wheelie after the race.

Heat 13 was an excellent race that saw Sam Masters fly past Douglas on the third turn, while skipper Scott Nicholls came through in a battle with Jake Allen for third place, as Cheetahs extended their lead to eight points at 43-35.

Scorpions needed two 5-1s from the final two races to force a Superheat – something that had happened in the corresponding fixture in North Lincolnshire in June with Cheetahs triumphant.

In Heat 14, Scunthorpe pair Michael Palm Toft and Drew Kemp led from the tapes, but Henry Atkins came through in forceful style on the third bend. Kemp lost control further around the bend and took an alarming fall into the air fence, although after a few anxious moments, he got up and walked away. In the meantime, there was a delay due to a punctured airbag.

Cheetahs had already clinched the meeting due to Kemp’s exclusion, but it didn’t stop the re-run from being highly controversial.

Referee Christina Turnbull had left the two-minute yellow light on in a previous race but without consequence. The same happened in the re-run of Heat 14 and Palm Toft mistook the light for the red stoppage light and pulled up from first place after a lap. The yellow light was then turned off and Palm Toft got going again, while displaying his displeasure to the referee… and also to the wall in the pits after the race!

The result stood as a 5-1 to Atkins and Jenkins, since the race had not actually been stopped. But it was all a bit unsatisfactory and the Oxford supporters would have been in uproar had it happened in reverse and a Cheetah been affected.

Masters top scored for Cheetahs with 13 points, while Kerr dropped only one point on his way to an 11-point haul. The rest of the Oxford side scored solidly, and six out of seven Cheetahs were paid for at least paid seven.

Lewis Kerr said: “I think we maybe went into tonight expecting a larger victory than the one we got. But Scunthorpe are a good team, they’re in the play-off places and they made us fight for it. But we pulled through and got the win in the end.

“I had a good night. I only was beaten in the race [Heat 9] where they placed a tactical substitute. I got past Jake (Allen) and I also got up to Ryan (Douglas) and nearly passed him.

“Overall, I was very happy with my night, dropping just the one point. I’m feeling really confident at the moment. I’ve got plenty of meetings and want to keep it going. I feel even better than I did before my injury and I feel I’m showing my best form at the right end of the season.

“As a team, we’re just doing the same we’ve done all year and it’s a good crack down here – we have fun. We just need to take the form we’ve been showing into the play-offs and we’ll be good.”

Monarch Oxford Cheetahs 50: Sam Masters 13, Cameron Heeps 3, Lewis Kerr 11, Jordan Jenkins 5+2, Scott Nicholls 8, Henry Atkins 5+2, Ashton Boughen 5+2.

Scunthorpe Scorpions 40: Ryan Douglas 14, Connor Mountain 2+1, Simon Lambert 2+1, Michael Palm Toft 9, Jake Allen 6, Nathan Ablitt 0, Drew Kemp 7.

PHOTO: Key 5-1 for Lewis Kerr and Ashton Boughen in Heat 12 (PIC: STEVE EDMUNDS).