Wednesday August 01, 2018
BIRMINGHAM went agonisingly close to a shock win over favourites Cradley in a Perry Barr thriller.

Despite missing key riders through injury and Cradley packing their side with big hitters, the Brummies gave their bitter rivals a real scare in front of the biggest crowd of the season.

But a 45-45 draw means Heathens will meet Mildenhall in the National Trophy Final.

Tom Bacon and James Shanes took the battle to the visitors with a string of impressive wins, several of them from the back on a spectacular night of racing in front of a big crowd.

But the Heathens’ recently-signed reserves dominated in that department, with a 5-1 from Taylor Hampshire and Richard Andrews in Heat 2 putting them ahead.

Jason Edwards crucially snatched third place from Dan Greenwood in both Heats 3 and 5 which left the Brummies facing an eight-point deficit.

But they notched a 4-2 in Heat 7 when Andrews crashed out and Shanes superbly switched inside Ben Morley in the re-run, and Greenwood recovered to share the points with a race win from the outside gate in the next.

With guest Tom Brennan – in for the injured Leon Flint - defeating Perks in his third outing, Bacon had the home fans on their feet when he rounded Morley to win Heat 10 which narrowed the deficit to four points.

Shanes beat Alfie Bowtell in Heat 11 but the Heathens edged a vital 4-2 in the next with Morley holding off Brennan – although a super 5-1 from Bacon and Shanes in Heat 13 put the pressure back on.

With a 40-38 lead the Heathens were desperate to finish things off in the penultimate race, and they effectively did the job with another fast start from Morley and third place for Hampshire, split by Greenwood.

Bacon and Shanes both completed maximums in the last heat with Perks coming to grief, but the draw took the Heathens into the Trophy Final by the narrowest margin.

Edwards Plumbing Brummies team boss Laurence Rogers said: “To think how many injuries we’ve got at the minute, what a stunning, valiant effort that was.

“I saw people predicting on social media beforehand that Cradley were going to win by 20-30 points in some instances.

“But I always knew that wouldn’t be the case and sadly it’s the reserve area that was the difference.

“Cradley have been allowed to use riders who are in the main body of the team at their league clubs and have got so much experience at this level.

“Taylor Hampshire and Richard Andrews have had a host of paid double figure scores this season so Sheldon and Jamie were always up against it down at six and seven.

“To say we were eight down at one stage though, that makes our fightback for a draw even more remarkable really and the boys should be really proud of themselves.

“The support they had from our fans was great and I’m hoping everyone can see the positives that I can ahead of Kent coming to Perry Barr next Wednesday.”

BIRMINGHAM 45: Tom Bacon 15, James Shanes 13+2, Tom Brennan 9, Dan Greenwood 6, Sheldon Davies 1, Jamie Sealey 1, Tom Spencer (no.8) 0, Callum Walker R/R

CRADLEY 45: Ben Morley 14, Taylor Hampshire 8+2, Alfie Bowtell 7, Ellis Perks 7, Jason Edwards 5+3, Richard Andrews 4+2, Kyle Bickley R/R.

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