The Wightlink Islanders collected three more valuable league points in their quest to qualify for the end-of-season playoffs at Smallbrook on Tuesday, defeating the Buxton Hitmen 55-37, but it was a victory achieved at a cost.
That cost is that skipper Ben Hopwood might well be sidelined for some time, if not the rest of this season, after sustaining shoulder damage when he was an innocent victim of a first bend melee in his first programmed ride of the match.
He and Buxton’s young reserve Sean Phillips clashed as they approached the first bend of Heat 3 and both crashed heavily, prompting the medical crew to rush to their aid with Phillips being able to rise to his feet and walk back to the pits, whilst Hopwood continued to received further attention.
And whilst the the popular skipper too was able to get to his feet eventually, his left shoulder, the one he broke two years ago, had been placed into a sling and he was still clearly in a lot of pain.
The track paramedic, Clive Greedy, withdrew Hopwood from the meeting and advising a visit to hospital for x-rays.
Given that hammer blow so early in the match, the Wightlink Islanders roared on by another big holiday crowd, did well to make light of his early exit from the action knuckling down to the task to claim another vital three more league points in their quest to finish in the top four in the final table and thus qualify for the play offs for the National League title.
Leading the way were Steve Boxall, once again deputising for injured No.1 Islander Tom Perry, who remained unbeaten by an opponent in his five rides, with Adam Ellis and hard working reserve Danny Stoneman both posting double figure scorers too, Stoneman having to appear in seven of the fifteen races given Hopwood’s injury.
ISLE OF WIGHT 55: Steve Boxall 14+1, Adam Ellis 13, Danny Stoneman 10+2, Darryl Ritchings 9, Chris Widman 6+1, Brendan Johnson 3, Ben Hopwood 0 (injured)
BUXTON 37: Charles Wright 15, Lee Smart 7+1, Adam McKinna 6+1, Matt Williamson 5, Ryan Blacklock 4+1, Sean Phillips 0.
Photo: Ian Groves, track photographer