Gladiators let early lead slip to suffer loss at Kent Kings

Gladiators let early lead slip to suffer loss at Kent Kings

Plymouth Gladiators suffered defeat at the hands of Kent Kings

23rd June 2021

By Gareth Davies

Plymouth took a break from league action to race in the first leg of the Championship Knockout Cup against Poole Pirates at the Coliseum as the Voice went to press.

The Gladiators were once again set to track guests in place of injured duo Jason Crump and Henry Atkins. Former world champion Crump is nearing a racing return after he suffered multiple rib fractures in a crash at Wolverhampton racing for parent club Ipswich Witches.

For Atkins, his season is almost certainly over due to a long-standing shoulder injury. Last week, Plymouth were involved in just one meeting when they made the long trip east to Central Park, Sittingbourne, to take on the Kent Kings.

With both sides new to the Championship this term, it was the Kings who prevailed 49-41 and in doing so, picked up their first ever win in the second tier of British racing.

In a cracking meeting, the only disappointment was that due to current guidelines, more spectators couldn’t have been in attendance as on a superb racetrack, both teams went at it hammer and tongs.

Ben Morley proved to be the matchwinner for Kent with a paid return of 13 points although up until heat 11, the Gladiators were in charge of the action. Led by Maidstone based Danny King, in as a replacement for Crump, Plymouth were first to settle.

In heat one, King broke the Kent track record which had stood since 2016 when Adam Ellis completed four laps in 56.1 seconds. King’s effort of 55.7, coupled with veteran home rider Paul Hurry falling on the last bend to hand Frenchman Steven Goret a point, meant that Plymouth had started the meeting with a 4-2 heat advantage.

Morley picked up the first of his three heat wins in the reserves’ race with Alfie Bowtell and Plymouth’s second guest Leon Flint packing the minor places.

The Gladiators continued to dominate and after six heats, Plymouth had provided four heat winners and opened up a slender advantage. However, Kent finally started to find their feet when Steve Worrall, guesting for the injured Cameron Heeps, bagged a brilliant 5-1.

The scores were now level at 21-21 but Plymouth restored their four-point cushion in heat eight when the unfortunate Hurry hit the deck again.

This was cruel luck on home rider Dan Gilkes who had been leading until the red lights came on and, in the rerun, Flint and Bowtell claimed a big 5-1.

Bjarne Pedersen demonstrated a glimpse of his class to win heat nine from Paul Starke. This prompted some changes from home manager Chris Hunt, who brought in Worrall for heat 10 and alongside Nicholls, Kent recorded a maximum which swung the pendulum in their favour.

Worrall repeated the dose in heat 11 by inflicting a first defeat on King, and when Gilkes and Starke wore down Plymouth’s Zach Cook to overtake the young Aussie in heat 12, Kent now led 37-35. King won the battle of the big guns in heat 13 but Pedersen was relegated to the back by Nicholls and Worrall.

The penultimate heat saw a 4-2 to Kent as they extended their lead to four points. Needing a maximum to snatch a share of the spoils, the Gladiators couldn’t manage it as Worrall and Nicholls finished with a 5-1 to hand Kent victory.