NATIONAL LEAGUE: Mildenhall Fen Tigers 47 Buxton Hitmen 46
Mildenhall Fen Tigers’ youngster Connor Mountain capped a season of continued improvement in Sunday’s final home meeting with a paid 20 points to lead his team back from a 12 point deficit to a last heat victory against Buxton Hitmen.
It was enough to see the Tigers secure a mid-table finish in the National League, having been scrapping in a relegation fight just a few weeks ago.
The home side, missing Jack Kingston (holiday) and having to draft in MDL rider Rob Watts into one of the reserve berths, were under pressure from the start.
A first heat fall from captain Danny Halsey saw Luke Ruddick also come down, and with Halsey excluded and the heat awarded the Fen Tigers were immediately on the back foot.
Things quickly went from bad to worse as the visiting reserves raced to an impressive 5-1 victory in heat two to take an early six point advantage.
Two drawn heats followed with the visiting riders Tony Atkin and then Ryan Blacklock taking the chequered flag, and the Fen Tigers remained six in arrears and without a heat winner.
Heat five saw Connor Mountain change that statistic and with partner Connor Coles tucking into third the margin was reduced by two points to four.
A second fall for Halsey in heat six saw a second 5-1 of the afternoon for the visitors as Tom Bacon struggled to make an impression off 15 metres after a second tape offence of the meeting.
Although Mountain won his second race of the afternoon in heat seven a third 5-1 in heat eight saw the impressive newcomer Jack Parkinson-Blackburn record his second win and extend the Hitmen’s lead to a significant 12 points.
Team manager Robert Henry wasted no time in producing the black and white helmet with the responsibility given to the fast gating Mountain.
It was make-or-break time for the Fen Tigers and the two Connors delivered a race to remember.
It was Coles who gated and then rode an intelligent race to slow things down in front and let partner Mountain round the outside to join him, both riders then matched strides perfectly to record an 8-1 that had the crowd in raptures and in one heat reduced the Hitmen’s lead by seven points.
Heat 10 saw Halsey win his first ride of the day with an excellent move round Atkin on the third bend, and with Bacon finishing third the gap was suddenly only three points.
Another fine ride from Coles saw heat 11 drawn and when Mountain romped to his fourth victory in heat 12, supported by a fine ride from Luke Ruddick to hold Parkinson-Blackburn at bay, the gap was reduced to only the single point.
A drawn heat 13 with Halsey taking the flag saw attention turn to heat 14 and a match-up between Coles and the highly experienced Atkin.
Experience won the day as Atkin second guessed the charging Coles’ every move and with Watts barely getting off the start gate the resultant 4-2 saw the visitors three ahead with one race left.
With seven heat wins between them Halsey and Mountain were the obvious choice, and when the two Fen Tigers hit the front down the back straight the noise went through the roof.
As hard as Liam Carr and Atkin tried they could make no impression and the Fen Tigers completed a 13-point turnaround to take victory by one point.
Promoter Kevin Jolly admitted after he was stunned by what he had seen.
“To be honest, I couldn’t see them turning round 12 points but they did and great credit to the lads, they showed true spirit and it was great to see.
“They all contributed but of course the plaudits will go to Connor Mountain and deservedly so. He has continued to improve all year and a paid 20 haul showed just what he can do.
“I am pleased for our supporters that we have finished with two good, albeit close, home victories.
“I cannot thank them enough for their continued backing throughout the season and god willing we will be back stronger and better next season.”
Mildenhall Fen Tigers: Danny Halsey 9 (5 rides), Tom Bacon 5 (5), Connor Mountain 19+1 (6 incl 6 pt TR), Connor Coles 9+2 (5), R/R , Rob Watts 1+1 (4), Luke Ruddick 4 (6).
Buxton Hitmen: Liam Carr 9 (5 rides), R/R, Tom Woolley 1+1 (4), Tony Atkin 11 (5), Ryan Blacklock 9+1 (5), Steve Jones 9+3 (6), Jack Parkinson-Blackburn 7+1 (5).
* Mildenhall captain Danny Halsey successfully retained the Bronze Helmet, comfortably defeating Ryan Blacklock.