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Speedway: The good ship Poole sails to another title
OZZY Osbourne! John Cadbury! Neville Chamberlain! Bob Carolgees! Barbara Cartland! Jasper Carrott – can you hear me, Jasper Carrott! Your boys took a hell of a beating! Your boys took a hell of a beating!
Had Dave Lanning, one of Poole’s favourite sons, or the late Tom Carnegie, the voice of speedway in America, been calling the Elite League grand final they would have been forgiven for indulging in a Bjorge Lillelien moment.
Pirates’ emphatic 104-79 aggregate victory over Birmingham will go down as arguably the most memorable achievement in the club’s 65-year history and must also rank as one of the greatest sporting triumphs of recent times.
It took a Herculean effort from all aboard the good ship Poole Pirates to lift a fifth title in 10 years, a feat which propelled them back to the summit of the sport and confirmed the club as the undisputed kings of the castle.
Victory over the table-topping Brummies, who had finished 10 points ahead of Pirates, capped a tumultuous campaign which had seen the Dorset outfit plumb the depths of despair and scale the heights of ecstasy.
Rock bottom in mid-May, Pirates had been facing the prospect of failing to even make the play-offs. And as injuries continued to mount, their woes were compounded at the start of July when inspirational skipper Chris Holder was ruled out for the rest of the season.
Lesser men than Matt Ford, Pirates’ shrewd and forward-thinking promoter, may have contemplated cutting their losses and hoisting the white flag. Throwing in the towel, however, was the furthest thing on his mind.
Instead, he set about reshaping the team, his brave and bold decisions including replacing the injured Darcy Ward in his one to seven at the start of May.
In Ford’s own words, Pirates were drinking in the “last-chance saloon” when they headed to Eastbourne on midsummer’s day. Fortified by no fewer than four guest riders, a convincing 55-35 victory would ultimately prove pivotal.
The return of Ward and Ford’s successful pursuit of two-time world champion Greg Hancock also proved a masterstroke with the arrival of the American galvanising team-mates and supporters alike.
But there was still work to be done and even team manager Neil Middleditch all but ruled out their chances after defeat at Swindon at the end of August had left them four points behind Lakeside with just two matches left.
However, wins against Lakeside and Belle Vue saw Pirates squeeze into the play-offs before a comeback of Lazarus proportions saw them overturn a semi-final deficit of 10 points against Swindon to set up what should have been a gripping finale against a crack Brummies team.
As it transpired, however, their exploits in the first leg at Wimborne Road on another memorable night effectively saw them end as a contest the duel for the crown. A 21-point lead always looked likely to see the second leg become something of a non-event for the neutral, even if Pirates followers would have been glued to Sky Sports.
Convincing wins for local lad Kyle Newman and man of the moment Josh Grajczonek in heats two and three did little to suggest Birmingham would be ready to stage a fight-back of their own after Jason Doyle had taken the chequered flag in the opener.
Poole-born Newman maintained his excellent start when he followed home Chris Harris in heat four before Ward was rewarded for pinging the lids in heat five as Pirates extended to 27 their aggregate advantage.
Although successive heat wins for Doyle, Harris and Josh Auty helped the Brummies cut the deficit to two points on the night, the writing was on the wall as Pirates continued to chip in.
And after Grajczonek and Janowski had both passed Ben Barker in heat nine, the maximum took Pirates to within touching distance of victory.
Doyle brought up his hat-trick in heat 10 before the champagne corks were popping as Pirates sealed the title with Ward’s pillar-to-post win in heat 11 a fitting way to clinch the silverware.
Skipper Ward ensured there would be no let up, his wins in heats 13 and 15 seeing Pirates add victory on the night to their overall triumph.
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