The Wightlink Islanders came within touching distance of reaching the final of this year’s National League KO Cup Final in a night of high drama at Smallbrook yesterday evening (Tuesday), but their home and away semi-final against the Mildenhall Fen Tigers will have to be replayed after the sides finished all square on aggregate at 90 points apiece.
Going into last night’s 15-heat home leg trailing 50-40, it looked as if there was no chance of the Islanders going through to the final with the scores level at 21-21 after seven heats and the home team still ten points behind on aggregate, but three successive heat advantages in the team’s favour put a totally different complexion on matters.
Race leader Brendan Johnson was brought down from behind by Mildenhall’s number one Stefan Nielsen, who attempted a rather over ambitious passing manoeuvre exiting the final bend resulting in both riders crashing heavily. The match referee stopped the race immediately, disqualifying Nielsen as the cause of the stoppage and awarding the Islanders a 5-1 maximum heat win. Thankfully both riders were able to get to their feet after lengthy treatment from the medical crew, but Johnson’s night was over with him having sustained a suspected broken right collarbone which he’ll have x-rays on at his local Poole hospital today (Wednesday).
Wins for skipper Tom Perry and guest number one Steve Worrall, who had been drafted into replace the injured Adam Ellis, in heats 9 and 10 saw the gap close to eight points ahead on the night but still two points behind overall.
Going into the final race, the Wightlink Islanders remained two points behind on aggregate but with the pairing of Worrall and skipper Perry holding first and second places on the first lap, it looked as if the home side were set to clinch a place in the final against league champions Dudley. In another race drama, referee Dave Watters had no option other to stop the race after Mildenhall’s Stefan Nielsen crashed for a second time on the night albeit disqualifying him from the re-run.
The re-run of Heat 15 saw opposition skipper Dan Halsey making a lightning fast start to lead for most of the race, and set end to the Islander’s cup dreams for another year, until Steve Worrall somehow found a way past him on the last lap to snatch victory and with skipper Perry getting the vital point for finishing third, the resultant 4-2 heat advantage in the Island team’s favour meant the sides had finished level after all thirty races of the semi and the rules decreeing it must be replayed.
It seems likely, subject to final confirmation, that the Island’s speedway team will travel to Mildenhall this coming Sunday for the first leg and stage the return at Smallbrook next Tuesday.
LAST NIGHT’S MATCH DETAILS
Wightlink Islanders 50 Mildenhall 40
Aggregate score: Wightlink Islanders 90 Mildenhall 90