Eastbourne ‘Forman IT’ Eagles came agonisingly close to becoming the first team to topple the Belle Vue Colts around their home circuit at the National Speedway Stadium on Friday evening, rites Kevin Ling.

The scores were deadlocked at 42-points apiece heading into the final four laps but although skipper Mark Baseby and Georgie Wood initially held a potentially match winning 4-2, the result was overturned with Colts Captain Jack Smith coming past Baseby and Kyle Bickley edging out Wood to secure the spoils and a 46-44 for the reigning National League Champions.

It had proved a superb Speedway meeting and a fantastic effort from each of the Eagles to take it to the Manchester men however the performance came at a cost as the fast starting Charley Powell had to be withdrawn suffering a suspected broken collarbone in his first outing.

Undoubtedly the Colts would point to a moment’s misfortune and a machinery breakdown for the lively Joe Lawlor allowing Jason Edwards and Charlie Brooks the 5-1 that set up the last heat decider.

Equally the Eagles could identify incidents, aside from Powell’s unfortunate withdrawal that ultimately cost them points.

Both cases involved wholly impressive reserve Charlie Brooks.

Heat two saw Edwards and Brooks heading comfortably for maximum points but the final bend saw the latter take an untidy tumble allowing Colts Kean Dicken to take second place.

Then race ten saw Brooks clip the safety fence whilst applying heavy pressure on home number one Tom Perry. His subsequent fall snatched away the prospect of an Eagles heat advantage, turning it into a 4-2 for the Colts.

Indeed the Eastbourne industry was evident from the word go.

Baseby provided a superb effort to deny Perry in a shared opening heat. Indeed Kelsey Dugard was unfortunate not to catch Ben Woodhull on the run in to the line.

Brooks last bend fall in race two was to prove to Dicken’s benefit but with Ben Rathbone having already pulled up, the Eagle was at least able to remount for the point and the 4-2 that saw the visitors lead 7-5.

Powell was fastest from the start in heat three but although Bickley discovered a route past Powell still held Lawlor at bay.

The final bend of lap two saw the Eagle lock up unfortunately leaving the chasing Lawlor little chance to avoid the stricken rider.

The rerun offered further disappointment for the Sussex side as Tom Brennan lifted coming out of the start allowing the Colts duo to blaze away for a confident 5-1.

Smith proved an all the way winner of race four but Wood and Brooks knew too much for Dicken, the resultant 3-3 seeing the scores move to 13-11 in favour of the Manchester Men.

Bickley and Lawlor secured a second 5-1 in the fifth, the former leading from gate to flag while Lawlor rode well to overcome Baseby on lap two.

A half dozen was now the difference and that was how it remained following race six as Wood put in a superb shift to lead Perry home, the score line now residing at 21-15.

Eastbourne were set to eat into the deficit in the next as Brennan executed a fine pass to get the better of Smith.

With Brooks also seeing off Rathbone in authoritative fashion, the 4-2 saw the margin narrow to four-points 23-19.

Eagles gated on a 5-1 in heat eight but Woodhull worked his way past Dugard and Edwards in turn to the delight of home supporters, his hard working victory safeguarding the Colts lead which now moved to 26-22.

Wood was on fire (pardon the pun) in heat nine, a fabulous gate and Bickley and Lawlor had no answer to his turn of speed though they were able to keep Edwards in check behind them.

Eastbourne threatened to move closer once more in the tenth but with Brooks ruled out after almost overhauling Perry, the rerun saw the home number one get the better of Brennan to stretch the difference to 6-points, 33-27, once more.

A brace of 3-3s followed in heats eleven and twelve sending the meeting into the final three races with the Eagles still six adrift.

The first of these saw Smith see off both Baseby and Dugard with Bickley following suit in the next denying both Brennan and Edwards to set the scores at 39-33.

A pulsating thirteenth race then saw Baseby take the win from Smith in fantastic style, Wood again working hard to get the better of Perry to move them to within four-points (41-37) of their hosts once more.

Lawlor looked to have heat fourteen in the bag but his untimely break down threw Eastbourne a life line and Edwards and Brooks duly gratefully accepted, coming through for maximum points to restore parity at 42-42.

The moment was at hand, but sadly the result was destined to go Eagles way in the last.

Baseby again got the drop on Smith but ultimately he could prevent the home skipper bursting through to exact his revenge.

It was a similar story for third place. Wood held the lead over Bickley but the Colts rider finally came through to snatch the verdict and the match for the home side.

It had proved a superb spectacle and speedway meeting however. Indeed no one could argue that the Eagles riders had done their club and supporters proud.       


Colts: Jack Smith 13(5), Kyle Bickley 12(5), Tom Perry 7(4), Ben Woodhull 6+2(4), Joe Lawlor 5+3(4), Kean Dicken 2(4), Ben Rathbone 1(4). – 46

Eagles: Mark Baseby 11(5), Jason Edwards 9+1(6), Georgie Wood 9(5), Tom Brennan 8(4), Charlie Brooks 5+2(5), Kelsey Dugard 2+2(4), Charley Powell 1(1). - 44



Paul Watson