Hammer time for the Robins
SWINDON Robins boss Alun Rossiter heaped praise on his riders for ruthlessly refusing to let the elements stand between them and maximum points last night.
In their second meeting in as many days, the Robins maintained their Elite League play-off challenge with a comfortable 57-35 victory over Lakeside Hammers, who were always fighting an uphill struggle after losing their captain Davey Watt to injury in the opening heat of the night.
But despite the advantage it gave his team, Rossiter admitted that he wasn’t pleased to see the Lakeside man suffer an early crash.
“With the rain coming, it can go against the home team because the away team think there’s no home track advantage,” said the Abbey Stadium chief.
“Credit to the track staff and Ronnie (Russell). He’s made it into a proper race track again and the boys out there can race it.
“They didn’t attack it - we attacked it.
“(The crash) is not a nice thing. Nobody wants to see that, even though it made life a little bit easier for us. I’d rather have seen Davey racing to be fair.”
Captain Troy Batchelor stole the show on the night before his 27th birthday but Rossiter was spoilt for choice as he reflected on a host of impressive performances from his Robins riders.
He added: “It’s Troy’s birthday tomorrow and he’s off to the Grand Prix too. That will give him a lot of confidence and he is riding with a lot of confidence at the moment.
“But also full credit to Nick Morris – two 11 points on the bounce – and Dakota North, who again, has got two 11s on the bounce.
“Simon (Gustafsson) tailed off a bit but the two wins were vitally important and certainly everybody gave Nathan Greaves a massive cheer when he got that third-place. He’s a fans’ favourite.
“Stevie Worrall was, once again, a class act.
“It’s crunch time with the play-offs coming up and we’ve got riders coming in to form so I’m hoping that we can carry this form into the play-offs. We want to keep winning at home and nicking the points away.
“The fans have gone home happy and the manager’s gone home happy too.”
The Hammers’ notorious homesickness showed no sign of abating and the men from Essex were handed an even steeper hill to climb following the misfortune of captain Watt.
The Australian international looked to lead from the front as he lined up in the opening heat of the night but in the first corner of the evening, the Lakeside man careered out of control, skidding straight into the barriers.
Visibly shaken and after taking a few minutes to get back to his feet, Watt tentatively made his way back towards the pits, but not before being checked up on by his Robins’ countryman North.
The Hammers rider was subsequently ruled out of the meeting with an elbow injury, with Craig Cook, Danny King and Lewis Bridger all filling in as replacements.
When the re-run finally got underway, the visitors’ Cook eased to a comfortable victory, with Kildemand second, Morris, who carved out a consistent night's work, third, and Kyle Howarth fourth.
The two sides were at level pegging again after the second heat, with Worrall assuredly crossing the line first in front of Benji Thompson and Paul Starke whilst Greaves retired.
Batchelor was on hand to upset the status quo in heat three as the first of the Australian’s impressive rides saw him effortlessly breeze past Cook and Benji Compton whilst Gustafsson offered great support to help the hosts notch up their first 5-1 of the evening.
With the scores at 13-11 going in to heat five, Kildemand suffered a wobble of his own, coming off his bike not far from where Lakeside’s Watt crashed, but Batchelor was on hand to take yet another heat win.
A spectacular drift from Gustafsson in heat six saw the Swedish ace fire Swindon to another 5-1, with North superbly holding off the challenge of Cook and Bridger to bring it home.
The Robins achieved a second successive 5-1 in heat six and despite Morris taking the win, the real drive was provided by Worrall, who superbly battled his way past Cook to take second place.
A tactical ride from Cook provided a lifeline for the Hammers after that but North clawed his way in front of the Lakeside man to protect the Robins’ lead.
The likes of Batchelor, Morris, Worrall and North continued to shine, with the Swindon captain and Kildemand securing the victory with another fine 5-1 in heat 13.
Then, in the penultimate heat of the evening, there was a moment to savour for Greaves as he finally got off the mark with a deserved third-place, with the youngster beating Howarth whilst North took the win.
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