Mildenhall Fen Tigers pipped by Eastbourne Eagles in classic KO Cup encounter
- Credit: Archant
Mildenhall Fen Tigers stop-start beginning to the season continued at the weekend after they were edged by Eastbourne Eagles in a KO Cup classic.
The Sussex outfit pipped the Fen Tigers by just six points after a fiery two-legged encounter, with the Tigers unable to overturn the Eagles’ first leg advantage despite a heroic showing in the final leg.
15-year-old debutant Sam Bebee recovered from a nasty collision to take the victory in heat two, and although the Fen Tigers managed just three heat winners, they only conceded one 5-1 reversal and regularly tucked in for the minor places to hold a very strong Eastbourne line up - led by Elite League rider Adam Ellis - to a manageable twelve points.
Top scorer Connor Mountain contributed a valuable points tally (10+1) and the unlucky Alfie Bowtell (6+1) suffered bike problems when well placed in heat eleven.
The Fen Tigers were still in with a chance of success on the return leg back at the Mildenhall Stadium, and Danny Halsey set the tone for an afternoon that would ebb and flow as he flew from the gate to inflict a rare defeat on Eastbourne’s number one Ellis, in heat one, recording the fastest time at West Row this season in the process.
Bebee returned to make his home debut and linked up with reserve partner Rob Parker to storm to a 5-1 success, cutting the deficit in half within two races.
With shared heats and an exchange of 4-2’s, the Fen Tigers remained six points behind overall going into heat eight.
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Bebee was then brought back in for Parker in the next heat to pair up with Alfie Bowtell, and after some expert racing reduced Eastbourne’s lead to just two points.
The Tigers’ comeback was complete when Connor Mountain executed a high-class pass on the flying Eagle to take the ninth heat, before Bowtell fell in the tenth to leave the scores evenly poised.
Although the Fen Tigers battled, the Eagles’ Ellis won heats eleven and thirteen to leave them two ahead with two to race.
Wood beat Connor Coles in the fourteenth to leave the Fen Tigers with the unenviable task of needing a 5-1 in heat fifteen to draw the tie, and when Ellis stormed from the gate the game was up and the battling Fen Tigers finally had to accept defeat.
After the meeting, Kevin Jolly had nothing but praise for his side. He said: “Although we fell just short at the end of the day, I have nothing but praise for our lads. They are really gelling as a team and work so hard for each other.
“It is so refreshing to see and makes everything we go through each meeting worthwhile. Young Sam [Bebee] is like a breath of fresh air and his smile is so infectious. He did himself, the club and his family proud this weekend and has totally vindicated the decision to give him his opportunity.
Our top three of Dan, Connor and Jon proved they are a match for anyone in this league and I really feel we have so much improvement in us as a team still to come.
Add to that the youngsters showing stacks of potential after the meeting and there is a real buzz around the club again, long may it continue! I would like to offer my congratulations to Eastbourne and wish them well as they look to retain the cup.”
Eastbourne ‘ITFirst’ Eagles - 50 – Adam Ellis 15 (5 rides), Luke Harris 4 (4), Ellis Perks 9 (4), George Wood 6 (4), Jake Knight 12+1 (5), Nick Phillips 2 (1), Charley Powell 2 (7)
Mildenhall ‘KJM’ Fen Tigers - 38 – Danny Halsey 5 (5), Alfie Bowtell 6+1 (4), Connor Mountain 10+1 (5), Connor Coles 5+1 (4), Jon Armstrong 6 (4), Sam Bebee 3 (3), Robert Parker 3+2 (5
Mildenhall ‘KJM’ Fen Tigers - 48 – Danny Halsey 12+1 (5 rides), Alfie Bowtell 5 (4), Connor Mountain 11 (5), Connor Coles 4+1 (4), Jon Armstrong 9 (4), Sam Bebee 5+1 (5), Rob Parker 2+1 (3)
Eastbourne ‘ITFirst’ Eagles - 42 – Adam Ellis 14 (5 rides), Luke Harris 2 (4), Ryan Blacklock (G) 7+1 (4), George Wood 7+2 (4), Jake Knight 8 (5), Niall Strudwick 1 (3), Charley Powell 3+1 (5)