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A top of the table Speedway thriller at West Row on Sunday (6/8) saw Mildenhall DJS Fen Tigers – proudly sponsored by Manchetts Rescue and Recovery – go down to a two point defeat against bogey side Leicester Lion Cubs, surrendering leadership of the National Development League [NDL] to the reigning champions.

Having lost six times to the East Midlanders in 2022 – including in both the Play Off and Knock Out Cup [KOC] Finals - Jason Gardners’ charges were determined to end that run and when taking a late lead 40-38 in heat 13, it seemed that the match points and retaining their lead in the table might be on the cards. 

But a heat 14 maximum by the visitors meant they were instead to take a two points advantage to yet another last heat decider at Mildenhall Stadium this term and this time it was the visitors who came out on top ending the hosts’ season-long undefeated home record. 

Heat 15 was a Speedway classic, with the visitors’ skipper Dan Thompson somehow squeezing through a gap that didn’t seem to be there to go from third to first and clinch the narrowest of victories for his team.

That the match was going to be nip and tuck was evident from the very opening. Thompson in supreme form partnered by British Speedway’s young man of the moment, Ashton Boughen banging out a 5-1 in heat one; only for the DJS Fen Tigers reserve pairing of Josh Warren and William Richardson (the latter claiming his first paid win ever in Mildenhall colours) to bring things level with a max of their own.

Falls aplenty dominated the action in the early proceedings: Vinnie Foord for the visitors and then an uncharacteristic tumble by home skipper Lee Complin in a heat four which saw the Lion Cubs get back to parity.

Heat five seemed set for a 3-3 with Thomspon ahead, but the very solid Ben Trigger and George Congreve keeping it level for the hosts – until a bit of aggressive riding only barely on the side of racing legality by Boughen saw the Kiwi Congreve have nowhere possibly to go, as the newly crowned GB Youth Champion muscled his way past.

Fen Tigers’ number one Alfie Bowtell was back to winning ways in the next race though, with Arran Butcher joining him for the hosts’ second 5-1 of the afternoon – it was though to be the last maximum heat win delivered by the home side; and things were looking ominous in heat nine when Boughen led comfortably with the improving Foord motoring behind him in second. Then a stroke of rare good fortune for the homesters, as Boughen’s engine gave up the ghost – instantly turning a 1-5 to a 3-3 and retaining the Fen Tigers four points match lead.

Four seemed to have risen to six when Butcher followed Bowtell home for third place in heat 10 – only for the referee to declare that on the line Leicester’s Max James had pipped him to the one point.  A 5-1 by the main men for the visitors, Boughen and European Under 19 Finalist Thompson set up the grand finale brining scores level at 33-33, only for the champions to show just enough to send them into seventh heaven. The hosts’ cause certainly wasn’t helped by a nasty fall by Warren, leading to the Cambs-based rider ending his afternoon with a hospital ride suffering from suspected concussion.

Team boss Gardner reflected on an afternoon where the momentum needed to lift the Fen Tigers into the top two positions at the end of the season stalled for them,

“It was a frustrating afternoon for sure – throwing away too many points against a predictably very solid Leicester side. Not looking for excuses but after a month without a match on our home track or as a team at all, too many of our riders were race rusty and it showed. It’s not over of course but we do need away wins at Kent and Edinburgh to stay in the Play Offs race.

“Special credit does need to go on our side to Ben Trigger who gated superbly and rode with such maturity to score 10 points. In any other circumstances he’d have got an additional ride in heat 15 as reward for his performance.

“Our thoughts more than anything else though are with Josh for a speedy recovery.

Frustratingly there’s still no date for the remaining regular home NDL fixture against league new boys Workington nor for the trip north of the border to the Scottish capital or the absolutely crucial return NDL fixture at Leicester.  Next confirmed match for Mildenhall (now down to second in the table) is at Kent on Sunday August 20th.

Mildenhall DJS Fen Tigers 44

Alfie Bowtell      1, 3, 3, 3, 1’                    11+1
Arran Butcher     0, 2’, 3, 0                        5+1
Ben Trigger        3, 2, 2, 3                        10
George Congreve  1, F, 1’, 1                      3+1
Lee Complin       FX, 3, 1, 1, 2                  7
William Richardson  2’, 1, 0, 0                   3+1
Josh Warren      3, 2, F, FX inj. withdrawn  5

Leicester Lion Cubs 46

Dan Thompson 3, 3, 3, 2’, 2, 3                  16+1
Ashton Boughen 2’, 1, 2, EF, 3, 0               8+1
Max Perry          EF, 1, 2, 2, 2                    7
Max James         2, FX, 1’, 0, 3                   6+1
Joe Thompson – Rider Replacement
Vinnie Foord      FX, R, 3, 1’, 2’                   6+2
Sam Woods       1, 1, 1’                             3+1

Heat details

1 (rerun) Thompson D., Boughen, Bowtell, Butcher 52.3  [1-5]
2 (rerun) Warren, Richardson, Woods, Foord (fell exc.) 53.3 [6-6]
3 Trigger, James, Congreve, Perry (EF) 53.3  [10-8]
4 (rerun) Thompson D, Warren, Woods, Complin (fell exc.) 52.8 [12-12]
5 Thompson D, Trigger, Boughen, Congreve (fell) 53.0  [14-16]
6 Bowtell, Butcher, Perry, Foord (ret.) 53.3  [19-17]
7 Complin, Perry, Richardson, James (fell exc.) 54.2  [23-19]
8 Butcher, Boughen, Woods, Warren (fell) 54.6  [26-22]
9 Foord, Trigger, Congreve, Boughen (EF) 54.6  [29-25]
10 Bowtell, Perry, James, Butcher 53.7  [32-28]
11 Boughen, Thompson D, Complin, Richardson 54.1  [33-33]
12 (rerun) Trigger, Perry, Foord (exc. 2M; 15m), Warren (fell exc.) 56.0  [36-36]
13 Bowtell, Thompson D, Complin, James 55.7  [40-38]
14 James, Foord, Congreve, Richardson 56.8  [41-43]
15 Thompson D, Complin, Bowtell, Boughen 55.6  [44-46]