DESPITE a night packed with positives for Swindon Robins it was difficult for the home support to go home happy following yet another meeting affected by the weather.
The Robins won the meeting 42-33 as Simon Gustafsson and Nick Morris led the way with 8+1 with every member of the side contributing to ensure Alun Rossiter’s men got back to winning ways after three straight defeats.
But, with the match brought to a premature end after just 12 heats due to persistent rain which made visibility difficult for the riders, the Abbey stadium crowd no doubt went home unhappy.
This was the third meeting to be cut short due to the weather already this season, with three more rained off before they even started, leading many to conclude Robins racenights are simply cursed.
But in the context of the Robins’ season to date the positives must surely outweigh the negatives, with Gustafsson continuing his resurgence with another gritty display and Nathan Greaves getting his Blunsdon career off to the perfect start with a magnificent, hard-charging victory in his first outing at his new home.
Team boss Alun Rossiter was frustrated to have to call a halt to proceedings once again but was delighted to claim three Elite League points and was pleased with the way his riders performed.
“The result was what we needed and I’m really pleased we’ve got it but it is a shame we didn’t get the match finished,” he said.
“The main thing is that everyone’s in one piece because all it would have taken was for someone to slip off and they would have got injured. The main thing was visibility, the track was fine.
“Belle Vue wanted to carry on because they thought they had a sniff of a point but half their team didn’t want to ride.
“At the end of the day we have to take that because we’ve struggled a bit and we’re more than happy to take the three points.
“All the riders contributed and we looked really good out there so there’s plenty of positives.”
After a minute’s applause in memory of former Robins rider Malcolm Simmons, who died yesterday, and British Superbikes star Simon Andrews who died in a track crash earlier this month, the Robins riders came to the tapes looking to complete 15 heats at the Abbey Stadium for the first time since April 24.
It initially looked as though Aces star man Matej Zagar was going to get the visitors off to the perfect start as he leapt out the gate, but his opposite number Peter Kildemand rounded him in the first bend to take victory. Gustafsson briefly joined his Danish partner for a 5-1 but Zagar bit back to limit the damage.
Greaves took to the Abbey Stadium track for the first time as a Robin but was soon tasting dirt after putting the bike down to try and avoid Brendan Johnson, who was excluded for slipping off on his own. In the re-run the teenager came out on Gustafsson’s machine and brought the biggest cheer of the season from the home crowd as he made a great gate before holding off a charging Charles Wright for all four laps, eventually forcing the Aces guest wide to help partner Steve Worrall through to join him for a maximum.
A second 5-1 was quickly served up by the fast-gating Troy Batchelor and Morris but, after heat two hero Greaves slipped off in turn one, the Aces hit back in heat four thanks to Wright and Richie Worrall.
Another home maximum from Batchelor and Kildemand in heat five brought out the first Aces tactical ride in the very next race and, although Zagar won with ease, Cook slid off while third which forced the referee to award the race.
Gustafsson moved from third to first to take victory in heat seven ahead of Michael Palm Toft before Scott Nicholls led the Robins pairing of Morris and Dakota North home for a shared heat eight.
The second reserves contest of the evening brought about another enthralling race, which Steve Worrall ultimately won with a pass on lap three after sharing the lead throughout with Wright, with the 3-3 meaning the Aces were out of tactical range going into their final opportunity to use it in heat 10.
The last heat before a reduced interval was shared as Kildemand couldn’t pass Nicholls, leaving the Robins nine up with five races remaining, but the visitors took two off that total as Palm Toft rounded the field in turn two before seeing off the attentions of the hard-charging Morris to hold on to the victory which was backed up by Zagar in third.
Those two points were taken back immediately as Gustafsson rode a tough opening bend to hold off Richie Worrall, with brother Steve in third to earn a Robins heat advantage which gave the hosts some much needed breathing room once again as the rain brought an early end to proceedings.