The Hackney Hawks completed a quick double over last season’s champions to extend their lead at the top of the National League table back to four points. They were, however, made to fight in the closing stages for the final available match point.
The Hawks provided the first man past the post in nine of the first twelve heats, with four of those races – all involving reignited reserve Ben Hopwood – producing 5-1s, to help boost the progressive score to a comfortable 45-29. Buxton gave their hosts a scare, though, when Tactical Rider Robert Branford combined with Adam Allott to blast an 8-1 in Heat 13, reducing the margin to just 9. With Ben Taylor then heading home Hopwood and Marc Owen in the next race, Hackney took a 49-40 advantage into the final heat, needing to avoid a 5-1 to claim the third match point.
That objective was achieved in emphatic fashion when David Mason and Barrie Evans led Allott and Branford from the tapes to the chequered flag. Mason finished the night with a monster 16, with both Evans and Hopwood close behind on paid 15.
Hackney operated Rider-Replacement for injured No.1 Shane Hazelden, who is out with a fractured and dislocated finger but aiming to return to action for next Saturday’s British U-19 Championship at Rye House. The Hawks had hoped to book Paul Starke – who had been instrumental in Sunday’s first victory over the Hitmen in Derbyshire – as a guest, but the 2010 Rocket was injured himself at King’s Lynn on Wednesday.
Joint Team Manager John Sampford was happy overall with the way things went. “We got the result we wanted tonight. We were cruising at Heat 12, but the 8-1 in Heat 13 changed matters a bit. In the end, David (Mason) and Barrie (Evans) trapped in the final race to make absolutely sure there was never a chance of Buxton getting a repeat result there.
“You can’t underestimate the contribution of our top three – David Mason, Barrie Evans and Ben Hopwood – tonight, but we needed the other riders to also score, and they did. Ben (Morley), in particular, was doing well until he hit mechanical problems in his fourth ride, and he eventually had to borrow a bike when he came out for Heat 13.”
Hackney scorers: Shane Hazelden R/R Ben Morley 7+1 (5 rides) David Mason 16 (6) Marc Owen 3+2 (4) Barrie Evans 12+3 (6) Brandon Freemantle 2+1 (3) Ben Hopwood 14+1 6) Buxton scorers: Adam Allott 9+1 (5 rides) Dean Felton 2+1 (4) Luke Priest 4+2 (4) Ben Taylor 12 (4 rides, inc 4 as a TR) Robert Branford 13 (5 rides, inc 6 as a TR) Paul Burnett 0 (4) Ryan Blacklock 1 (4) Match points: Hackney 3 Buxton 0
Heat 6: Robert Branford (white) and Ben Hopwood (red) – Hackney Hawks vs Buxton Hitman – National League Speedway at Arena Essex Raceway, Lakeside – 15/07/11 -(Rob Newell/TGSPHOTO)