Mildenhall Fen Tigers suffer first leg defeat to Leicester Lion Cubs in Knock Out Cup final with uncertain future
Mildenhall Fen Tigers were defeated by Leicester Lion Cubs in the opening leg of their National Development League (NDL) Knock Out Cup final on Sunday, 48-38, in what could have been the club’s last ever home fixture.
With uncertainty surrounding the existence of speedway’s third tier next season, the weekend’s meeting at the Mildenhall Stadium could have been the final roll of the dice of the sport under the British Speedway Promoters Limited (BSPL) banner for the Fen Tigers.
In the close to thirty years of Speedway’s third tier Knock Out Cup final, it is highly unlikely that there has been a contest which opened like this one: an afternoon of spills, mechanical breakdowns, hospital visits and delays at Mildenhall Speedway.
Both teams lost their number ones and number sixes and, crucially, in the case of the hosts, another of their heat leaders too.
Team manager Jason Gardner said: “It was a tough afternoon all round. The track was in good condition but both teams were very unlucky with some nasty falls.
“Credit on our side goes especially to Ben (Trigger) and William (Congreve) who kept battling away and what an impressive 9+2 for Kai Ward who is improving with each and every ride.
“We send best wishes to the injured riders and hope they are not out for too long. Thanks to the supporters for sticking with us on a long afternoon.”
Heat Two saw pile ups in both of its stages – Leicester’s Vinnie Foord and Max James had a nasty friendly fire coming together on the first bend.
Foord was then involved in another bad coming together in heat four and Mildenhall’s ‘guest’ Jody Scott’s first lap crash was repeated by another tumble in the rerun – and that was it for the King’s Lynn-based teenager who went out with a hip injury.
A first ever awarded race win for Congreve will be scant consolation, ending his season as he started the 2022 campaign in hospital with a badly broken leg.
The restaging saw an even worse crash, this time on the final bend with James perfecting an entirely unwanted a 360 degree pirouette and the DJS Fen Tigers’ William Richardson unable to take evasive action.
That essentially was a blow too far for Gardner’s beleaguered charges – seeing the parity of 17-17 at the end of heat six dip as a result of five 5-1s to a 20 points deficit with just two heats remaining.
Undefeated and flying with some red hot race win times was 2023 GB Youth title winner Ashton Boughen and also untroubled by the depleted hosts was their other ‘Guest’, the Aussie Jacob Hook.
They were not to be involved in the final two heats and the very plucky Ben Trigger, G.Congreve and the paid 11 points scoring Kai Ward salvaged maximums to reduce the deficit to 38-49.
“Everything is up in the air as we have to see what the top two leagues are up to (Premiership and Championship), but unlike this time last year it looks like this league could be in doubt next season,” said Gardner.
The sides will meet again in the second leg on Saturday (7pm).