Monday September 16, 2019
BOSS Will Pottinger has praised his Cradley side following a bumper night of action.

The Anchor Logistics Heathens kept their play-off hopes alive in dramatic fashion with a last gasp 46-44 win against Kent before slipping to a 45-39 defeat in a battling Knockout Cup Semi-Final first leg display against Belle Vue.

They were two displays with plenty of encouraging moments - and more importantly leave the Heathens with a realistic opportunity of seeing their season extended.

“It was great to just come out on top against a strong Kent team,” Pottinger said.

“It goes without saying we’re really pleased with that result; we’ve done all we can, now we just have to wait and see what happens with other results.

“The second meeting was always going to be even tougher and things started to go against us a bit.

“Jack (Smith) had to borrow bikes which is far from ideal and one or two of the boys naturally and understandably tired the longer the night went on.

“It was disappointing to lose the first leg but I’m still proud of the effort.

“There was a good team spirit all night, everyone got stuck in and that’s all anyone can ask.”

Cradley left it late against Kent but added three more invaluable points to their National League tally nevertheless.

Heat-leader duo Max Clegg and Jack Smith combined for two late 4-2s to pile the pressure on rivals Mildenhall who now need to claim all four league points at Plymouth on Thursday to deny the Heathens a top four finish.

Without injured pairing Danny Halsey and Tom Spencer, the odds were stacked against the hosts against a powerful Kent outfit – but Pottinger’s side dug deep to produce the goods.

Clegg inspired his side with another unbeaten night, including a classy first outing which saw him secure a paid win behind Luke Harris after working his way through from the back in the opener to secure an important early 5-1.

Harris impressed on his way to double figures as he delivered one of his standout performances of the year and came up with two further advantages alongside Clegg.

Young reserve Harry McGurk worked hard for some crucial points early doors while guest Connor Coles was his usual solid self with four successive second places.

It was a close contest that swung one way then the other and the sides were tied going into the final race and the nerves were jangling on the terraces.

Former Heathen Drew Kemp straightened up in the opening turns, narrowly avoiding Smith who managed to turn back underneath to settle into third and with Clegg dominant again out front, the job was done for Cradley who now face an anxious wait to discover their fate.

Their attentions instantly turned to the Knockout Cup tie though and a tiring Heathens just hadn’t got enough in their locker to reproduce a similar outcome against Belle Vue.

It means the Heathens have plenty to do in the return leg at the National Speedway Stadium on Wednesday where the Colts have been in ruthless, dominant form of late.

The hosts drew first blood as Harris and Clegg teamed up for another 5-1 but they found themselves behind after conceding back-to-back maximums in Heats 4 and 5.

Smith pulled up on borrowed machinery before Coles struggled to make an impact against a fast starting Bailey and Kyle Bickley.

But it was Clegg and Harris who replied as they both produced impressive rides to get the better of former British Youth Champion Leon Flint.

Smith switched to Coles’ machinery for his next outing and rode a hard race to force an error from Belle Vue youngster Jordan Palin on bend three as the Heathens retook the lead.

Local lad James Chattin was thrown out of the eighth after clattering into Connor Bailey who picked himself up to win the re-run.

But there was drama behind him as Ben Woodhull locked up dramatically out of bend four, with Harris having to shut right off the throttle to avoid stronger contact between the two.

And while Clegg and Coles were able to add two further wins for the Heathens, Belle Vue edged back ahead with their fourth 5-1 in Heat 11.

Two shared races followed with Clegg completing an unbeaten set over the course of the two meetings before the visitors rounded off with a 4-2 in Heat 14 in a meeting cut short by a single race.

CRADLEY 46: Max Clegg 14+1, Luke Harris 10+2, Jack Smith 9, Connor Coles 8, Harry McGurk 5+1, James Chattin 0, Tom Spencer R/R.
KENT 44: Anders Rowe 12, Alex Spooner 9+1, Drew Kemp 7, Jordan Jenkins 7, Daniel Gilkes 6+1, Rob Ledwith 2, Sam Woolley 1.

CRADLEY 39: Max Clegg 11+1, Connor Coles 9, Luke Harris 8+1, Harry McGurk 4, Jack Smith 4, James Chattin 2+1, Sam Woolley (no.8) 1, Tom Spencer R/R.
BELLE VUE 45: Connor Bailey 9+1, Danny Phillips 9, Leon Flint 7+1, Kyle Bickley 7+1, Ben Woodhull 6+2, Jordan Palin 4+1, Ben Rathbone 3.
Abandoned after Heat 14 - Curfew - RESULT STANDS

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