The Lakeside Hammers will ride into tonight’s big Sky Sports Elite League showdown at the Arena-Essex Raceway against new boys, the Kings Lynn Stars, desperate for all three League points but also to impress a Hammers faithful, who are rightly running out of patience with several of the team.
After a near miss for points on the road at Peterborough on Thursday evening, a team lacking both Lee Richardson and Stuart Robson, due to a clash with the re-arranged British Semi Final held at Scunthorpe, led through to Heat six at Coventry last night before collapsing to an embarrassing defeat with regulars Kauko Nieminen and Piotr Swiderski failing to score whilst stalwart Adam Shields continued his own poor run of form only defeating an opponent on two occasions in five races.
Only young reserve, and Captain for the night, Robert Mear, came away from Brandon Stadium Coventry with any credit although Guests Rory Schlein and Ricky Wells more than covered for the absent British duo, with Schlein posting three wins, including the first away in Heat 15 for a Hammer this season.
The news from Scunthorpe was that both Richardson and Robson successfully qualified through to the British Final, which will be held at Wolverhampton next month.
With June providing a short month for Friday home League action at their Raceway with a test match, Knockout Cup match and then blank senior action due to World Championship qualifiers and the phenomena that is the British Grand Prix, tonight is the last chance for the team to grab Elite League points to steady a position that is likely to have fallen to the lower reaches by the time they return to League duties at Swindon on June 30th.
The Hammers Co Promoter Jon Cook explained: “There’s no hiding it, we can talk about how exciting the racing has been and what a good show we put on at the Raceway, both of which are true, but it’s looking like our faith in an experienced top five has been misplaced and pretty much it’s now or never for those that remain with us tonight.
“It’s extremely frustrating that the same riders seem to score points with ease abroad but here every single one has seen his average fall apart.
“We have a very quiet senior month to come and by July it’s fair to say that riders who currently wouldn’t consider UK racing will be more responsive to an approach and that means it’s only tonight and the Birmingham cup matches left for some of the team to show the same commitment and passion for the Hammers that our fans and backroom staff show and expect.
“Last night was an all time low as it was only our guests and Robert (Mear) that showed any real form. Piotr (Swiderski) was as bad as he was good the night before, although he did spend longer in the medical room at Coventry than he did on track. Kakke (Nieminen) was way off the pace after lap one and but for one good ride Adam (Shields) looked anything but a heat leader. I am not going to make any excuses whatsoever of their behalf and they know it wasn’t good enough and there’s only one way to put that right. ”
The Hammers have been forced into a further change for tonight after Piotr Swiderski was sent off to hospital with a damaged cornea in his left eye, thought to have been sustained the night before at Peterborough. Therefore, they will not gamble on the fitness of Peter Ljung and will instead call upon the services of USA international Ryan Fisher, which allows for Rider Replacement to switch to third in the averages.
The action gets underway this evening (Saturday) at the Arena-Essex Raceway at 8pm with the Grand Parade of riders scheduled for 7.45pm.
The full line up for the Hammers will, therefore, be: Lee Richardson, Kauko Nieminen, Adam Shields, Rider Replacement (for Piotr Swiderski), Ryan Fisher (guest), Robert Mear and Stuart Robson.
Picture: Stuart Robson in action (Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO)