Wednesday July 18, 2018
BIRMINGHAM’S 90th anniversary celebrations were spoiled in a tense last-heat decider by Mildenhall at Perry Barr.

The depleted Brummies fought back from six points down to get close to snatching a dramatic victory, but the Fen Tigers’ 15-year-old wonderkid Drew Kemp produced a remarkable ride to win the crucial finale and seal a 46-44 victory for the visitors.

The Fen Tigers showed why they are the title favourites this season, and for the Brummies the absence of injured heat-leader Danyon Hume proved costly.

Whilst Tom Bacon and James Shanes consistently won races, the fact that prolific reserve Leon Flint is now in the top five and unable to take extra rides made a significant difference to the outcome.

In fairness, Kemp is also out of the reserve berth for the Fen Tigers, and he delivered a superb performance.

The Brummies had little support for their upper order, although debutant Sheldon Davies did show encouraging signs and may well improve against teams who are not quite so strong.

Maximum advantages were hard to find for either side, and the Brummies overturned an early deficit in an eventful Heat 3 when Shanes worked his way past Josh Bailey whilst Flint salvaged third place when Danny Halsey hit trouble.

But the Fen Tigers responded with two successive 4-2s as Danny Ayres got the better of Shanes in the next race.

The visitors held a four-point lead for much of the mid-meeting stages, and Davies was clear of Sam Woods before the Mildenhall reserve fell in Heat 9.

Kemp led Shanes for the majority of Heat 11 before the Brummies star surged around the outside on the last lap, but Bailey’s win over Flint in the next helped the Fen Tigers go six points up.

There was drama in Heat 13 when Ayres crashed out for the visitors on the third bend, with Bacon and Shanes both passing Ryan Kinsley for a Brummies 5-1 in the re-run, putting the match right back in the balance.

Flint grabbed a win over Halsey in Heat 14 leaving the hosts requiring a maximum in the last to snatch victory – but this time they were thwarted by Kemp, who rode a superb outside line to fend off Bacon and Shanes, leaving the Brummies narrowly adrift.

With it being their first home defeat of the season, there was naturally a sense of disappointment around the place after the meeting.

But co-promoter David Mason was proud of his side’s efforts under the circumstances.

“You really have to feel for the boys because they put their whole heart into it once again tonight,” Mason said.

“But we missed Danyon big time and it was a shame our first meeting without him was against probably the other strongest team in the league.

“You have to give credit to Mildenhall though, they came here and got the job done but our boys were absolutely gutted.

“It’s important they pick their heads up though and we’ll keep working hard behind the scenes and see if there’s anything meaningful we can do to give the boys at the top end a bit more temporary support.

“I just want to say a big thanks to the supporters for getting behind the team in the way that they did and it was another encouraging crowd so we must be doing something right.”

The Edwards Plumbing Brummies travel to Kent on Monday (July 23, 6.30) for a mid-season challenge before hosting Plymouth at Perry Barr next Wednesday (July 25, 7.30).

BIRMINGHAM 44: James Shanes 15+1, Tom Bacon 13+1, Leon Flint 10, Sheldon Davies 3+1, Callum Walker 3, Arran Butcher 0, Danyon Hume R/R.

MILDENHALL 46: Drew Kemp 13, Josh Bailey 9, Danny Ayres 8, Matt Marson 7+1, Ryan Kinsley 4+2, Danny Halsey 4+2, Sam Woods 1.

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