Coventry Bees may be out of the running for the end of season play offs but they are still providing some good entertainment for their loyal fans.
On Thursday they went to Birmingham with a decidedly under-strength team but managed to give the local Brummies quite a scare before succumbing in the final couple of races.
On Monday they recorded their highest win of the season against a Lakeside team who were weakened after losing Stuart Robson in his opening ride.
Both of these teams are in contention for the play-offs, Lakeside currently lie in fourth place while Birmingham have been on a good run of late and are hotly fancied to move up the table.
Birmingham 49, Bees 41.
Despite making numerous phone calls the Bees management were unable to find an Elite League rider to guest for injured skipper Chris Harris. In the end it was Christian Henry from the Premier who took the spot. No slight on Henry but he is not the rider to fill the number one spot in an Elite League team. Bees also had to use Rohan Tungate in the reserve spot as both doubling–up riders were unavailable. With Scott Nicholls also injured rider replacement was utilised. The Birmingham management questioned the eligibility of Tungate and rode the match under protest.
Bees started off well with Aaron Summers and Henry making the start to heat one but unfortunately both Bjarne Pedersen and Josh Auty had overtaken Henry by the start of lap three to share the points.
Bees again led heat two but this time it was the other guest, Tungate, who was overtaken by firstly home newcomer Nicolas Covatti and then Martin Smolinski. Bees number seven Michal Szczepaniak held out for a good win.
Birmingham took an easy 5-1 to go ahead in heat three before Szczepaniak won his second outing with Summers going by Sebastian Ulamek to level the scores.
It was Birmingham’s turn for the 5-1 in heat five and the Danny King and Ben Barker pairing took their second of the night.
Pedersen won heat six from Szczepaniak with Auty taking third from Tungate.
The meeting was beginning to go the way that the form book suggested but Bees were not going to go down without a fight. Ulamek made the start to heat seven but a mistake on turn two let both Edward Kennett and Kenni Larsen through for maximum points and bring them back to within two points.
Summers won a shared heat eight before Larsen became the first man to take points off King and Barker in the next.
Kennett hit trouble in heat ten when he was excluded after locking up on turn two of the second lap. Pedersen beat Larsen in the rerun with Auty having to push home for third place.
There were more problems in the next heat. In a scrappy start, Ulamek, Summers and Henry collided after leaving the tapes. All three riders walked back to the pits but Henry and Ulamek were subsequently withdrawn from the meeting.
The interval was taken while things were sorted out. In the restart Smolinski and Szczepaniak came in for the two withdrawn riders with Smolinski turning out the eventual winner.
Kennett and Tungate took a 4-2 over King in heat twelve to put Bees back in the hunt.
Good use of the faster outside line gave Kennett the impetus to win heat thirteen.
Larsen led heat fourteen but a good ride from Barker took him from third to first and with Szczepaniak now apparently running out of steam, Smolinski took third to put the home side needing just two points for victory.
As it was Pedersen and Barker led from the tapes with the resulting 5-1 giving them all three match points.
This was a good performance from what was virtually a four man team, the two guests contributing just a solitary point. To leave with nothing must have been a disappointment for travelling Bees fans who for the second time in a week had to endure a harrowing journey due to M6 closures.
Bee’s scorers; Larsen 11(1), Summers 10(2), Szczepaniak 10, Kennett 9, Tungate 1, Henry 0.
Bees 60, Lakeside 31
Bees had already beaten the Hammers in the K.O. Cup so the Essex side were hoping for revenge and help their chances of reaching the play-offs. Bees now have no chance but still want to put up a good performance to reward their loyal fans.
Bees used rider-replacement for the still injured Nicholls but welcomed back skipper Harris after his bout of concussion. The visitors, who are still coming to terms with the tragic loss of Lee Richardson, were at full strength.
The warm weather during the day had obviously left the track staff with a dilemma and heat one soon showed that the track had been overwatered. Roynon led from the start by halfway through the second lap had been relegated to last place. Harris had worked his way into second to limit the visitor to a 4-2.
Justin Sedgman won heat two for Lakeside. An early challenge from Summers petered out after a mistake on the Coventry turn.
Kennett and Larsen took an untroubled maximum in heat three although it was still obvious that conditions were not ideal.
A blow to the visitors came in heat four. Bees looked set for another maximum before Szczepaniak made a mistake at the end of the third lap. Stuart Robson tried to capitalise on this but when attempting to pass coming out of turn two the pair clashed with Robson crashing heavily. Szczepaniak was excluded. There was a lengthy delay while Robson received attention on the track before being taken to hospital. The race was awarded 3-2 to Bees.
Once racing resumed Kennett and Larsen somehow combined to keep out Davey Watt.
Another delay for further track work took place before heat six. Roynon and Harris eventually took another maximum in a well spread out race.
Peter Karlsson took a tactical ride in heat seven but came out the wrong end of a first bend sandwich and it was Bees all the way for their third successive maximum.
Sedgman was looking sharp for the visitors and led heat eight. Roynon soon went by on the back straight and with Szczepaniak getting third at the end of lap one Bee’s had the luxury of a 32-15 lead at the halfway stage.
Kennett and Larsen’s hope for a third 5-1 were dashed in heat nine when Sedgman took second on lap one.
Karlsson had been quiet for the visitors but got into his stride by winning a processional heat ten.
Watt took the second tactical ride available and fared marginally better than Karlsson. The race was rerun after Szczepaniak had fallen on the first turn and disqualified. Watt led the restart but Summers put in a good ride to pass both visitors on the Rugby bend and earn the cheers of the crowd.
Karlsson won his second race of the night in heat twelve before Bees took a slightly fortunate maximum in heat thirteen. All four riders managed to stay afloat in a hectic first turn. Watt came out ahead and looked all set to win before pulling up with machine failure at the start of the final lap.
Lakeside were now looking a little dispirited and it was no surprise that Bees took another maximum in heat thirteen.
Bees now needed another maximum in the final heat to complete their highest win of the season. Harris led from the start and once Summers worked his way into second place on turn three it was all Bees.
This was an excellent win and left Bees supporters wondering what could have been if they had produced this form earlier in the year.
It was another good all round performance with Summers especially having a good meeting, dropping just one point to the opposition in his first ride. Kennett also looked sharper than he has done for a couple of months. Bees may be out of the title race but there is still the K.O. Cup to look forward to and on this form there must still be hope of silverware coming to Brandon.
Bees’ scorers: Harris 15(1), Kennett 12(2), Summers 11(3), Larsen 11(2), Roynon 7(1), Szczepaniak 4(1).
There is no meeting at Brandon on Friday but on Saturday an exodus of Bees supporters will make the journey to Cardiff for the British Grand Prix. Chris Harris will be hoping for another good meeting to help his climb up the rankings while Bees other interest lies in Scott Nicholls who takes up the wild card sixteenth spot by virtue of winning the recent British Championship.
After this Bees face a busy week with a bank holiday double header against Peterborough on Monday. The meeting at the Showground starts at 11am. with the return at Brandon beginning at the earlier time of 7.30pm.
On Wednesday Bees go to Belle Vue for a rerun of the earlier cancelled fixture.