Saturday, June 15, 2024
CheetahsOxford Speedway

REACTION: “I couldn’t have asked any more from the lads tonight – they gave it their all and I’m really proud of them.”

MONARCH Oxford Cheetahs put in a typical fighting performance and grabbed the aggregate bonus point by 91-89, but lost 39-51 at Glasgow last night (Friday). The result meant that Poole were confirmed as table toppers and therefore will pick their two opponents in the play-off semi-final mini-leagues.

Cheetahs can be extremely proud of their record in their 16 regular Cab Direct Championship matches. They won 13 out of 16 matches, with an unbeaten record at Cowley and won five out of eight meetings away from home. In addition, Cheetahs pulled off the achievement of picking up every single aggregate bonus point.

A worry for Cheetahs was Cameron Heeps crashing out in Heat 7 at Glasgow with a shoulder injury. He is now a doubt for Oxford’s opening play-off meeting at Oxford Stadium, which will take place on Wednesday (September 13) against opponents to be announced shortly.

Cheetahs could not have tried harder at Glasgow, in a meeting containing some spectacular and brilliant racing – in short, it was a brilliant advert for speedway.

Tigers flew into an early 9-3 lead, but Lewis Kerr and Heeps took a well-deserved 4-2 over Vadim Tarasenko and Benjamin Basso in Heat 3 after an exciting battle.

Cheetahs levelled the scores, after Jordan Jenkins produced a stellar ride to pass Basso in Heat 5 and join Sam Masters for a 5-1.

Tigers took a 4-2 in three out of the next four races. Ashton Boughen led Heat 8 from the tapes, but the race was halted after Ace Pijper took a heavy fall on the second bend and Tom Brennan made no mistakes in the re-run.

Tigers moved 30-24 ahead, which led to a bold move by Oxford team manager to introduce Masters into Heat 10 alongside Kerr against a strong Glasgow pairing of Chris Harris and Brennan. An amazing four laps of speedway ensued, with Masters having to twice fight past Brennan for the victory. The battle for third was even more engaging, with Kerr making the final move, to push under Harris on the final bend, as Cheetahs hit back with a 4-2 of their own.

By this time, Glasgow new signing Tarasenko was fully dialled into the track and he passed Masters in spectacular style in Heat 11, as Tigers stayed four points ahead.

The withdrawal of Heeps left Cheetahs vulnerable in Heat 12 and Tigers took a 5-1. Heat 13 was another incredible race, but eventually Harris and Tarasenko took a 5-1 over Masters and Scott Nicholls, as Glasgow made sure of victory on the night and closed up to just two points behind on aggregate.

Kerr held off Brennan in Heat 14, while Henry Atkins passed Lee Complin for a priceless third place, as Cheetahs took a 4-2 and extended their aggregate lead to four points.

Cheetahs needed two points from Heat 15 for the bonus point. Harris passed Masters on the final bend to win the race, but the second place from Masters was enough to ensure Cheetahs made it a full house of eight aggregate points out of eight in the regular league campaign.

Team manager Peter Schroeck said: “I couldn’t have asked any more from the lads tonight – they gave it their all and I’m really proud of them.

“I think we can also reflect how far we’ve come as a club in just our second year back – last season, the Cheetahs weren’t even in the play-offs, whereas this season we’ve finished a fine second place in the regular table and pushed Poole all the way in the battle at the top.

“Glasgow’s new Russian lad rides in the top league in Poland and you could see Tarasenko’s class tonight.

“I felt sorry for Cam, after his night finished with a shoulder injury in his second ride. We’ll see how he is, but we already have a plan if he’s not fit enough to ride in our opening play-off meeting at Oxford on Wednesday.

“You could say that we fell short tonight in gaining the victory that would have seen us top the table, but I prefer to take the positives. We’ve won every bonus point in the league and that will stand us in good stead when it comes to the play-off groups, where the bonus points are even more important.

“Every point we scored counted towards the bonus point tonight. Henry had a good ride in Heat 14 to take a point. He hasn’t been here since he rode here for Somerset – that’s a while, since sadly Somerset have been closed since 2019. There was Jordan’s 5-1 with Sam, after Jordan fought past Ben Basso, which takes some doing around here.

“I suppose putting Sam as the tactical substitute in Heat 10 alongside Lewi was quite bold, but I felt it was going to work and it did.

“Every other team is going to be more worried that us heading into the play-offs, because we’ve taken a bonus point off them all. There are some huge meetings ahead and I can’t wait for us to get stuck in.”

Glasgow Tigers 51: Chris Harris 10, Tom Brennan 11, Benjamin Basso 8, Claus Vissing R/R, Vadim Tarasenko 13+1, Lee Complin 6+2, Ace Pijper 3.

Monarch Oxford Cheetahs 39: Sam Masters 13, Jordan Jenkins 5+2, Cameron Heeps 1, Lewis Kerr 9, Scott Nicholls 6, Henry Atkins 3, Ashton Boughen 2+2.