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Pirates: Controversy as ugly win boosts play-off bid
BOSS Neil Middleditch watched Pirates take a huge step towards the play-offs in controversial style and then declared: “It wasn’t pretty but we got the job done.”
Pirates put themselves firmly in the driving seat to claim the final qualification spot after taking maximum Elite League points from a 35-28 win at Belle Vue.
But that barely told the story of a farcical meeting which was contested in awful conditions – with the result standing after 10 heats. An early finish had always looked likely after rain in Manchester had left the surface very wet and caused standing water on the inside lines.
There proved to be little entertainment in front of the Sky Sports cameras as both teams struggled despite intensive work from track staff at Kirkmanshulme Lane.
But manager Middleditch praised the efforts of his Poole riders after they had got the required result to give their chances of reaching the play-offs a mighty boost.
He told the Daily Echo: “We came up here with a job to do. It wasn’t pretty but we got the job done. Due to the weather, it wasn’t the greatest spectacle.
“We came here for the result and I am happy with the result.”
Asked if the meeting should have gone ahead following heavy criticism from supporters online, Middleditch said: “I spoke to the boys on the track walk and we were up for it. It was very difficult to race on but we adapted to it better.”
Middleditch added: “The problem was that it was getting worse throughout the meeting. As it got heavy, the track got stickier and stickier.”
Despite the circumstances, Pirates were left happy enough with the outcome after the masterful Greg Hancock (8+1) and Josh Grajczonek (10) had starred. Pirates went off as 1-6 favourites with the bookmakers and Darcy Ward and Jonasson immediately justified that with a 4-2 in the opener. Grajczonek gated well to win heat two before a sensational start set Rohan Tungate on his way to a Pirates maximum in the third race, thanks largely to superb team riding from the wily Hancock.
The track problems were there for all to see as Maciej Janowski got badly out of shape before hitting the dirt as Lasse Bjerre took the win in heat four, with Magnus Zetterstrom taking it steady to seal the 4-2.
While Matt Ford and Middleditch both stressed their desire to get on with the job when quizzed on Sky Sports, the Aces riders looked less keen.
Jonasson and Ward hammered home a 5-1 in the fifth before impressive Aces guests Iversen and Bjerre sandwiched Grajczonek to cut Poole’s lead to 21-15.
Zetterstrom took a tumble to gift Hancock and Tungate another maximum, with Sky Sports commentator Nigel Pearson then admitting that rain had “ruined the meeting as a spectacle”.
Things took another turn for the worse when Jonasson required treatment on a neck problem following a nasty-looking tangle. With Iversen sent out for double points, the Aces cashed in with Grajczonek minimising the damage in a 7-2.
In the best race of the night, spectators and viewers at home were finally treated to some racing as Grajczonek boldly headed Kevin Wolbert.
And with the result due to stand in the case of an abandonment after 10 completed heats, Hancock also performed heroics to beat Bjerre, with Tungate completing the job after Iversen had fallen.
The four league points left Pirates on 46 and they are sweating on the outcome of Lakeside’s trip to Swindon on Thursday, with the Blunsdon clash postponed yesterday due to rain. A maximum haul for the Hammers would lift them to 47 points.
King’s Lynn also came back into the play-off picture at the expense of Peterborough after the sport’s chiefs ruled in favour of the Stars after an appeal over the result of their July 24 clash. King’s Lynn, who face Birmingham twice this week, could join Poole on 46 points, but Pirates have a better points difference than their rivals.
RIDER SCORES AND HEAT DETAILS
Belle Vue Aces 28: 1 Niels-Kristian Iversen (guest) (0-3-6^-fx) 9, 2 Rider Replacement for Craig Cook, 3 Kevin Wolbert (0-1-2) 3, 4 Ulrich Ostergaard (1-fx-1*) 2+1, 5 Magnus Zetterstrom (1-f) 1, 6 Ales Dryml (1*-1) 2+1, 7 Lasse Bjerre (guest) (2-2-3-1-1-2) 11. Team manager: Jason Attwood.
Poole Pirates 35: 1 Darcy Ward (3-2*) 5+1, 2 Tomas H Jonasson (1-3-fx) 4, 3 Greg Hancock (2*-3-3) 8+1, 4 Rohan Tungate (3-2*-1) 6+1, 5 Maciej Janowski (f-0-0) 0, 6 Josh Grajczonek (3-2-2-3) 10, 7 Micky Dyer (0-2) 2. Team manager: Neil Middleditch.
Referee: Graham Flint.
Elite League points: Belle Vue Aces 0 Poole Pirates 4.
Ht 1: Ward, Bjerre, Jonasson, Iversen (2-4)
Ht 2: Grajczonek, Bjerre, Dryml, Dyer (5-7)
Ht 3: Tungate, Hancock, Ostergaard, Wolbert (6-12)
Ht 4: Bjerre, Dyer, Zetterstrom, Janowski (fell) (10-14)
Ht 5: (re-run) Jonasson, Ward, Wolbert, Ostergaard (fell, excluded) (11-19)
Ht 6: Iversen, Grajczonek, Bjerre, Janowski (15-21)
Ht 7: Hancock, Tungate, Dryml, Zetterstrom (fell) (16-26)
Ht 8: (re-run) Iversen (tactical rider, double points), Grajczonek, Bjerre, Jonasson (fell, excluded) (23-28)
Ht 9: Grajczonek, Wolbert, Ostergaard, Janowski (26-31)
Ht 10: (re-run) Hancock, Bjerre, Tungate, Iversen (fell, excluded) (28-35)
Meeting abandoned after 10 heats. Result stands.
Echo star rider: Greg Hancock
Last night’s other results: Peterborough Panthers 55 Wolverhampton Wolves 38, Swindon Robins P Lakeside Hammers P.
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