WITH the searing words of Matt Ford ringing in their ears, Pirates’ riders knew tonight was make or break.

The promoter issued a timely challenge to his play-off chasing troops prior to the fixture against Wolverhampton, using his programme notes to make some extraordinary and brutally honest comments.

Ford, who has piloted Poole to seven glittering Elite League titles, questioned whether his team could win another meeting this year, let alone make the SGB Premiership’s top four.

The Wimborne Road chief revealed he expected four or five of the septet to fall short of a Pirates team place in 2018 and insisted unless “absolute commitment” was shown, it could be more.

As revealed by the Daily Echo earlier today, Ford confirmed his first signing for next season was poised to be unveiled in a matter of days. Desperate to avoid another difficult campaign, he started early.

In terms of statements, it was as stinging as they get. Yet while Ford wholeheartedly confronted his team’s shortcomings, he also gave his riders the chance to turn their individual fortunes round.

As forthright and brutal as the words came across, they were designed to elicit a response. So what response did he get?

On the whole, a very good one, particularly considering this was a team off the back of five league losses on the spin at home – an unwanted club record.

The relief in the stadium was palpable when Brady Kurtz and Jack Holder made a superb start. With Holder battling for supremacy with Freddie Lindgren in the first few turns, Kurtz blitzed around the outside and into top spot, his compatriot following shortly after.

Next, another maximum. Paul Starke blasted off gate one and fellow reserve James Shanes – who had just performed a lap of honour in recognition of his European grass track title win – chopped to the inside and took the Wolves pair out of the game.

A 5-1 from Peter Adams’s side provided an unwelcome response but the confident Shanes then came out on top in a breathtaking battle with Ellis Perks to bank third and a heat advantage.

Timo Lahti and Edward Kennett were on course to be on the wrong end of a second straight maximum as heat partners but the former dug deep to pass Kyle Howarth and limit the damage.

Poole extended to six points their lead thanks to Kurtz and Holder, the latter rounding Perks on the second bend.

Andersen looked easy en route to his second victory in as many starts, all the action of interest taking place behind him. Starke kept Jacob Thorssell at bay until the final turn of lap three but having been passed, the Poole man showed his battling qualities by storming inside the Swede two bends later.

A lightning start helped Holder take the chequered flag in heat eight and Shanes again proved Mr Entertainment, reeling in Nathan Greaves before pouncing with a lap to go.

Predictably, Wolves team boss Adams then threw in Thorssell and gave him the black and white helmet. Disaster struck when Lahti inadvertently ran into Kennett on turn three and put his team-mate on the deck, earning the former an exclusion.

Thorssell made the start in the re-run and Kennett kept Greaves at arm’s length behind him. Nonetheless, Wolves had cut to five points the deficit.

That gap would have become smaller had the third-place Holder not expertly blocked Rory Schlein’s path through next, resulting in a 3-3.

Wolves turned up the heat with a maximum after Howarth got off to a flier from the tapes, his colleague Lindgren joining him at the front after Andersen lifted on the back straight under intense pressure.

Lahti’s response was as excellent as it was unexpected. Jet-propelled from the gate, the Finland-born racer held off the charge of Schlein to post Poole’s seventh heat advantage.

Andersen was hit by ignition problems in heat 13 and the captain’s withdrawal proved expensive as the gutsy Kurtz was only able to finish second.

There was a point in it and drama followed in the penultimate outing. Thorssell was excluded for impeding Kennett’s run and Kennett and Starke duly notched a maximum.

The final race was an effective dead rubber but it was Thorssell who won it, completing his rollercoaster night.


Pirates 48: 1 Brady Kurtz (3-3-2-2-0) 10, 2 Jack Holder (2*-1-3-1*-2) 9+2, 3 Timo Lahti (0-2-x-3) 5, 4 Edward Kennett (1-0-2-3) 6, 5 Hans Andersen (3-3-1-r) 7, 6 Paul Starke (3-1-0-2*) 6+1, 7 James Shanes (2*-1-1-1) 5+1.

Wolverhampton 45: 1 Freddie Lindgren (1-3-2*-3-1) 10+1, 2 Kyle Howarth (0-1-2-3-1) 7, 3 Rory Schlein (2*-2-2-0-2) 8+1, 4 Jacob Thorssell (3-0-6^-3-x-3) 15, 5 Sam Masters r/r, Ellis Perks (0-0-0-0) 0, 7 Nathan Greaves (1-2-0-1-1) 5.

HT 1: Kurtz, Holder, Lindgren, Howarth, 60.47 (5-1)

HT 2: Starke, Shanes, Greaves, Perks, 61.72 (10-2)

HT 3: Thorssell, Schlein, Kennett, Lahti, 60.50 (11-7)

HT 4: Andersen, Greaves, Shanes, Perks, 61.72 (15-9)

HT 5: Lindgren, Lahti, Howarth, Kennett, 61.06 (17-13)

HT 6: Kurtz, Schlein, Holder, Perks, 60.87 (21-15)

HT 7: Andersen, Schlein, Starke, Thorssell, 60.75 (25-17)

HT 8: Holder, Howarth, Shanes, Greaves, 61.13 (29-19)

HT 9 (re-run): Thorssell (tactical), Kennett, Greaves, Lahti (dsq), 61.10 (31-26) 

HT 10: Thorssell, Kurtz, Holder, Schlein, 61.03 (34-29)

HT 11: Howarth, Lindgren, Andersen, Starke, 60.62 (35-34)

HT 12: Lahti, Schlein, Shanes, Perks, 60.56 (39-36)

HT 13: Lindgren, Kurtz, Howarth, Andersen (retired), 61.32 (41-40)

HT 14 (re-run): Kennett, Starke, Greaves, Thorssell (dsq), 63.16 (46-41)

HT 15: Thorssell, Holder, Lindgren, Kurtz, 63.25 (48-45)


JAMES Shanes performed a lap of honour prior to the meeting in recognition of his European grasstrack title success. Perhaps he should have done another at the end of it.

The Puddletown flier was great value throughout, not only scoring in every ride but having to do much of his work from the rear of the field.

His first-turn cut-back in heat two would have given the top-flight rookie much reason for satisfaction but that moment was one of many.

An excellent night for the youngster.