A NUMBER one returning just a fortnight after puncturing his lung and breaking a rib, the absence of fans’ favourite Tobiasz Musielak and a quite daunting trip to face in-form Belle Vue Aces.

The odds weren’t exactly stacked in Swindon Robins’ favour ahead of their trip to Manchester tonight.

But Alun Rossiter’s brave sextet took the meeting down to the wire, and were only denied a consolation Premiership point by Kenneth Bjerre’s smart cut-back on Troy Batchelor in a deciding heat 15 – as the Robins lost 49-41.

It proved be a night of celebration for the typical sport-mad Mancunian. Those that dodged the gridlocked roads surrounding the city centre – due to Manchester City’s open-top bus celebrations – would’ve been satisfied by the Aces’ victory.

An eight-point win might not have been what the average paying punter would have expected – particularly after the hosts registered a third race advantage with only five heats completed.

A spirited fightback prior to the interval ignited hope in the Robins’ camp. But it’s the hope that hurts, and so it proved when the visitors twice threw away a 3-3 in the meeting’s concluding heat to miss out on poaching what would’ve been a deserved Premiership point.

From the top, Jason Doyle returned in the fashion you would expect a world champion to do so. Professional, determined and – most importantly – fast.

Breathing might’ve been an issue in the later stages of the meeting, but his 14+1 haul from six rides must be applauded.

Troy Batchelor also clocked double figures. But Adam Ellis perhaps left Manchester the most satisfied – 10+1 on a track he has previously struggled on really isn’t a bad night’s work.

The problem sits with Rossiter’s bottom two. Wajtknecht’s two points serves as an injustice – the Bristol-based youngster was unfortunate not to earn more points from his five rides.

But James Shanes’ speed is one of concern – and Belle Vue’s combined reserve score of 14+2 compared to Robins’ tally of two tells the meeting’s full story.

Mechanical gremlins restricted the Aces to a 3-3 in heat one, with Lampart benefitting from Ricky Wells’ retirement as Jason Doyle ran a second behind home skipper Max Fricke.

Two race advantages in heats two and three paved the way for a successful opening half to the meeting for Mark Lemon’s Aces, though.

Dimitri Berge and Jaimon Lidsey paired up for an ominous 5-1 in heat two, before Adam Ellis’ move up the inside of Dan Bewley in heat three split the home pairing – though they still led 12-6.

Troy Batchelor was a shining light in the Robins camp amid their struggle to establish a foothold in this Premiership tie.

Victories in heats four and six stemmed the Aces’ run of race advantages. But sandwiched between the Australian’s efforts was British youngster Dan Bewley’s comfortable win over Doyle in heat five.

Leading 22-14, Belle Vue held a sizable early advantage. That eight-point lead was maintained through heats seven and eight, but it appeared increasingly fragile.

And by heat nine, that proved to be the case. Team manager Rossiter used his tactical switch to its maximum potential, with Doyle and Batchelor teaming up for a timely 5-1 for the Robins in heat nine – game on.

A surprise defeat for Fricke in heat 10 – following a race long battle with Ellis – saw the Aces’ lead cut further, as Wajtknecht pulled off a last-bend move on Wells to record the visitors’ second race advantage of the night.

Doyle’s full-throttle win over Bjerre in the final race before the interval meant Swindon recorded their fourth heat win of the night – and trailed by two points with four heats remaining.

Mark Lemon might have feared a shock loss for his Aces at this stage, but a pair of 4-2s – with a 3-3 recorded in heat 13 – meant the Robins required a 3-3 or better in the final race to record a deserved consolation point.

It simply wasn’t to be for the Robins – Doyle and Batchelor surrendered their favourable positions in separate incidents, earning Belle Vue a 49-41 win.

The Robins return to action next Monday against Poole Pirates in a Bank Holiday double-header.