CHRIS Holder tonight brought the curtain down on his temporary stint at Wimborne Road and left Pirates fans holding their breath over the condition of Darcy Ward.
Holder scored eight points in the 50-40 victory over table-toppers Lakeside and then departed to focus his attentions on the Grand Prix and league racing on the continent.
That left Poole’s number one berth open and supporters will have their fingers crossed that Ward will come through his world championship test in Finland on Saturday, having sustained ruptured knee ligaments at the beginning of last month.
Were Ward to feel less than fit in Tampere, Matt Ford will be forced into action and with Holder’s availability limited for the rest of the season, the Pirates promoter may be forced to look elsewhere.
However, should the two-time world under-21 champion emerge unscathed, that could give the defending Elite League champions a timely shot in the arm as they aim to crank up the pressure on Lakeside and King’s Lynn at the summit of the Elite League.
Such thoughts may occupy the minds of the Wimborne Road faithful over the next few days, but for now fans will be content to reflect on this latest success, a three-point victory that was Poole’s sixth out of six at home in 2014.
That is not to say it was not hard-earned. The visitors pushed Neil Middleditch’s men every step of the way and in Richard Lawson and Lewis Bridger they had two Brits in scintillating form.
Happily for the hosts, the Hammers top two of Peter Karlsson and Mikkel Bech failed to produce anything like their best over the course of the evening.
Lawson and Karlsson racked up a shock maximum in the opener but reserve Kyle Newman – fit again after suffering a ruptured thigh – replied with three points in a shared second heat.
Lakeside kept their hosts at bay with another 3-3 in the third outing and the advantage became six points when Lawson clocked up his second victory after rounding Vaclav Milik.
Poole finally secured their first heat advantage in race five as stand-in skipper Maciej Janowski rocketed from third to first out of bend two, while Holder used all his track knowledge to blast beyond ex-Pirate Davey Watt for third.
The meeting was levelled at 18-18 when Milik gated and Shamek Pawlicki came from the back to pass Bech and then Karlsson within half a lap, setting up a 5-1.
Bridger recorded a rapid 59.80 seconds in a shared heat seven but then Pawlicki and Milik combined for a 4-2 after the latter just about managed to cling on to his machine on the final bend.
Poole’s debutant reserve Ben Hopwood completed his night with a spill and a third zero, but Newman saw off the attentions of Adam Ellis, who guested for Poole with distinction against Belle Vue seven days ago.
A third shared heat in four followed as Holder finally got the win he wanted and after the interval, Pirates inched six points ahead as another terrific charge from Pawlicki saw the Pole zip from third to first on bend two.
An identical move from Josh Grajczonek saw the second-stringer secure victory in heat 12, before Holder broke the 2,500 mark in delivering a maximum with Janowski, guaranteeing vic-tory on the night in the process.
Bridger rounded off his excellent work with victory in another 3-3, but Holder was denied a fairytale ending in the final showdown.
The 2012 world champion trailed in last after packing up late on, with the inspired Lawson becoming the first Hammers rider to defeat Pawlicki out front.
Pirates 50: 1 Chris Holder (1-1-3-3-0) 8, 2 Josh Grajczonek (0-2-1-3) 6, 3 Shamek Pawlicki (3-2*-3-3-2) 13+1, 4 Vaclav Milik (2-3-1-2) 8, 5 Maciej Janowski (0-3-1-2*) 6+1, 6 Ben Hopwood (0-0-0fr) 0, 7 Kyle Newman (3-1*-3-1-1*) 9+2.
Team manager: Neil Middleditch.
Hammers 40: 1 Peter Karlsson (2*-1-0-1-1) 5+1, 2 Richard Lawson (3-3-2-2-3) 13, 3 Davey Watt (2-0-0-0) 2, 4 Lewis Bridger (2-3-2-3) 10, 5 Mikkel Bech (1*-0-2-0) 3+1, 6 Ben Morley (1*-0-1*) 2+2, 7 Adam Ellis (2-1-2-0-0) 5.
Team manager: Neil Vatcher.
Ht 1: Lawson, Karlsson, Holder, Grajczonek, 60.50 (1-5)
Ht 2: Newman, Ellis, Morley, Hopwood, 62.06 (4-8)
Ht 3: Pawlicki, Watt, Bech, Janowski, 60.63 (7-11)
Ht 4: Lawson, Milik, Ellis, Hopwood, 60.21 (9-15)
Ht 5: Janowski, Bridger, Holder, Watt, 60.00 (13-17)
Ht 6: Milik, Pawlicki, Karlsson, Bech, 60.25 (18-18)
Ht 7: Bridger, Grajczonek, Newman, Morley, 59.80 (21-21)
Ht 8: Pawlicki, Lawson, Milik, Watt, 59.87 (25-23)
Ht 9: Newman, Ellis, Morley, Hopwood (fell/remounted), 62.65 (28-26)
Ht 10: Holder, Bech, Grajczonek, Watt, 60.81 (32-28)
Ht 11: Pawlicki, Bridger, Janowski, Karlsson, 60.00 (36-30)
Ht 12: Grajczonek, Lawson, Newman, Ellis, 60.73 (40-32)
Ht 13: Holder, Janowski, Karlsson, Bech, 60.81 (45-33)
Ht 14: Bridger, Milik, Newman, Ellis, 59.81 (48-36)
Ht 15: Lawson, Pawlicki, Karlsson, Holder, 60.78 (50-40)
STAR RIDER: SHAMEK PAWLICKI
The Pole showed a range of skills on his way to a stunning haul of 13 paid 14.
Alongside a couple of decent starts, Pawlicki twice flew from third to first and left his rivals wondering what they had to do to beat him.
He was only defeated by an oppo-sition rider once in five outings, that coming in the final heat when the on-fire Richard Lawson lowered his colours.
Pawlicki’s track knowledge gets better every week and he more than made up for an average night for his fellow countryman Maciej Janowski.