THE wet weather may have stayed away for once but instead it rained injuries at the Abbey Stadium as the Robins beat Leicester 48-40.
The hosts took three vital points from an eventful evening of racing, but also saw three riders involved in nasty looking crashes as Peter Kildemand, Nathan Greaves and Dakota North all hit the fence with force.
North and Greaves were ruled out of the meeting early on after suffering suspected knee ligament and collarbone injuries respectively, while Kildemand was unable to ride in heat 15 after being heavily shaken by his heat 13 crash.
In their absence the remaining Robins all contributed, with Steve Worrall the busiest of the lot as he stepped in to score 14+2 from seven rides, while Simon Gustafsson continued his recent resurgence with 11+1 and skipper Troy Batchelor hammered in 10+3.
Team manager Alun Rossiter also earned his money as he was forced to juggle his riders to ensure his injured stars were sufficiently replaced in a number of heats, given former Robins Jason Doyle and Mads Korneliussen scored a combined 22 points for the Lions. Although changes to the rules meant there were two races started with only one Robin at the tapes.
Despite being frustrated at the prospect of perhaps having to make changes to his side for next Thursday’s visit to Wolverhampton, with North’s injury the most concerning, Robins’ boss Rossiter was proud of his riders achieved.
“To do that with only five riders after injuries like that is brilliant, I’m really proud of the boys,” he said.
“We’ll have to see about Dak and Nathan Greaves because we’re not quite sure what the damage is at this stage. They’re struggling a little so we’ll have to regroup and see what I can do.
“Maybe I am looking for a replacement and I’ve already got an idea, so we’ll have to see if I can pull it out the bag.
“Full credit to Steve and Simon Gustafsson – who was outstanding again – he’s really stood up and been mature about things and now we’re starting to see the best of him.
“We pulled the boys in together and Troy played a captain’s role tonight, and we turned a real negative into a positive because it was a really hard night.”
Doyle and Kildemand were teammates when the Robins won the league in 2012, and both have burst from being a reserve during that season to hold number one spots, but it was the Leicester rider who showed his class in the opener as he stormed away from the tapes to take victory as Kildemand had to make inroads from the back.
After an aborted first attempt at heat two, all four riders drifted to the fence in turn two of the second attempt, with Joe Jacobs the loser as he was chopped off in turn one. Worrall did really well to pass Max Clegg on the inside for what looked like a Robins’ heat advantage, before Greaves packed up while third.
Guest Nicolai Klindt, in for Nick Morris, was left behind at the start on his return to the Abbey Stadium, and was unable to pass Richard Lawson for third but, thankfully for the Robins, Batchelor found a way through opposing captain Korneliussen to maintain parity.
It looked as though heat four was going to be shared too, until North, sitting second, went into turn four too hot and clipped the back of Sam Masters’ bike to send both riders hurtling into the fence. The Swindon man appeared to come off worst, having to be helped from the track by his teammates, while he was also excluded for his troubles. The second stab at heat two was equally unsuccessful, with Clegg wiping out Greaves in turn one and coming off worse, as he left the track in an ambulance. With both riders receiving treatment, Worrall came in for Greaves, but he couldn’t beat Masters as the visitors took the lead for the first time.
With Greaves set to pull out of the meeting, the Robins opted not to use Worrall as a reserve replacement in heat six as he would be needed later on in the meeting, but it looked as if it didn’t matter as Klindt made a great gate to lead Doyle. However, after he was passed by the Aussie the Swindon guest went wide in the final corner to allow Lawson through to give the Lions the lead once again.
Gustafsson gave the Robins the lead again with a good move on Lasse Bjerre after stalking the Dane for two laps, before Klindt and Worrall settled in behind winner Korneliussen to leave the Robins a point to the good going into the second reserves race.
Worrall got the better of Jacobs in their match race to stretch the lead by another point and that’s how things stayed after heat 10 as Kildemand and Gustafsson could only follow fast gater Korneliussen home.
The lead became a little more comfortable thanks to two magnificent gating displays in heats 11 and 12, with the pairings of Klindt and Batchelor and then Gustafsson and Worrall leading from the tapes to the flag to as good as secure the points.
Kildemand was the next Robin to meet the fence as he was run very wide by Doyle before being thrown along the air bag at high speed, but the Dane was able to walk back to the pits and was soon at the tapes for the re-run in which he finished second behind Doyle while riding Klindt’s bike.
Worrall was the lone Robin in the penultimate race of the night and was able to split the Lions’ pairing of Bjerre and Jacobs, before Gustafsson and Batchelor secured the points in the final heat.