THERE will be greater tests to come, but Matt Ford’s fledglings showed glimpses of the quality required for Elite League success as they passed their first examination of 2014 last night.
Against an erratic but dangerous Lakeside outfit, Pirates overcame several significant speed bumps in securing a 48-42 challenge match victory in their first competitive outing of the season.
With five heats gone, Aussie star Darcy Ward had twice been set back by engine failures and Vaclav Milik had experienced mechanical gremlins, with Lakeside able to cling on to a narrow lead from heat six until heat 11.
Arriving late to the party, Ward was once again Pirates’ lynchpin as he stormed to wins in heats 13 and 15, supplementing the terrific work of Shamek Pawlicki throughout the meeting.
Opening in untypical fashion, Ward retired on bend three of heat one as the hosts fell 4-2 behind.
Reserve Lee Smart gamely held off Adam Ellis, before ex-Pirate Davey Watt failed to swipe away Maciej Janowski in heat three, allowing the Pole and frontrunner Pawlicki to notch a 5-1.
However, a retirement for Czech new boy Milik resulted in the Hammers returning the maximum favour and the teams were locked at 12-12.
Ward’s engine misery continued in race five and there was further drama when the Hammers’ Mikkel Bech fell after locking up on bend three, only to remount and scoot home for a point.
The Hammers inched 19-17 in front with a 4-2 despite Pawlicki’s neat move inside Lewis Bridger and the advantage became four courtesy of Bech’s jet-propelled gate.
Heat eight was shared and the second reserves’ race proved a more exciting affair, with a frustrated Smart all over the back wheel of the third-placed Ben Morley.
Ward finally bagged three points before the heat of the night came in 11, as Bech passed Maciej Janowski and Pawlicki for the lead inside half a lap, only for the latter to come roaring back.
Supporters from both sides were relieved to see Kyle Newman get to his feet after sliding under the air fence in race 12 and then Ward delivered his second win in spite of an unintentional wheelie on bend four of the second lap.
A shared penultimate heat ensured that only a 5-1 maximum from the visitors would result in honours ending even and sure enough, Ward and Pawlicki delivered.
While skipper Ward left his rivals in the dust on the re-run, Pawlicki remounted mid-race to secure a point and a closing 4-2.
Pirates are due to face Swindon this evening in the first leg of the Elite Shield at the Abbey Stadium (7.30pm). However, forecasted rain in Wiltshire has put the meeting in doubt.
Poole asset Chris Holder is in line to feature in Neil Middleditch’s septet in place of Ward, with the former keen to gain track time ahead of the New Zealand Grand Prix a week on Saturday.
Swindon Robins: Kildemand, Klindt, Batchelor, Gustafsson, Morris, Ritchings, Worrall.
Poole Pirates: Holder, Grajczonek, Pawlicki, Milik, Janowski, Newman, Smart.