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Fen Tigers number one Alfie Bowtell upbeat for side’s chances of reaching play-offs

Mildenhall Fen Tigers number one Alfie Bowtell remains confident that the club can still reach this year’s National Development League (NDL) play-offs despite suffering their first home defeat of the season on Sunday against reigning champions Leicester Lion Cubs.

The Essex based racer topped the charts for the Fen Tigers with a paid 12 total (11+1), which included three race victories, however it wasn’t enough to prevent the West Row based outfit from going down 44-46 in a last heat decider at Mildenhall Stadium.

As a result of the loss it saw the Fen Tigers, who only have one home fixture left to race from their final four NDL meetings, slip down to second in the league, however Bowtell believes they can still secure one of the two play-off spots on offer if everyone pulls together.

Mildenhall Fen Tigers No1 Alfie Bowtell
Mildenhall Fen Tigers No1 Alfie Bowtell

“It is emotional to be honest with you and it is such a shame. We lost Josh (Warren) late on which didn’t help but we really didn’t have any excuses,” said Bowtell.

“I feel like we can still make the play-off final as long as we have got a fully fit team and the boys put it all together on the day. This result is soul destroying but we can still do it. We just need a bit of luck behind us. We just need to believe in ourselves.”

Those expecting a tight tussle between the two sides at the weekend were treated to exactly that during the opening exchanges with both teams trading 5-1s in the first two heats.

After the Lion Cubs, through Dan Thompson and Ashton Boughen, paired up to take the opener, the Fen Tigers responded immediately with reserves Josh Warren and William Richardson matching that effort to restore parity.

The teams continued to match each other's efforts until Thompson and Boughen, who edged out George Congreve with a questionable manoeuvre on the final bend for third, nudged the Lion Cubs into a slender two point lead in heat five.

However, that lead soon evaporated as Bowtell and Arran Butcher roared to a 5-1 in heat six to give the Fen Tigers a two point cushion, which was swiftly doubled after Lee Complin bounced back from a fall in his first ride to lead home a 4-2.

Things looked set to get even better for the hosts, who were sitting on a 5-1 just a race later, however they were forced to settle for a share of the spoils after Warren was firstly passed by Boughen on the last lap before coming to grief while in third on the penultimate bend.

After throwing away points the Fen Tigers then found themselves on the end of a slice of good fortune with Boughen suffering mechanical problems whilst out in front to hand the hosts a fortunate 3-3 in heat nine.

Most of those on the terraces thought their advantage had been increased to six points in heat 10 with Bowtell and Butcher appearing to have secured a 4-2, however referee Simon Smith adjudged the latter to have been pipped to the post by Max James.

The power pairing of Thompson and Boughen then turned the meeting on its head when levelling up matters with a decisive 5-1 in heat 11 to set up a grandstand finish between the teams.

After losing the services of Warren with suspected concussion in heat 12, a race which was eventually won by his team mate Ben Trigger, the Fen Tigers saw the pendulum swing back in their favour with a hard fought 4-2 from Bowtell and Complin in heat 13.

However, their efforts were quickly undone with a below par Congreve and Richardson suffering a 5-1 in the penultimate heat leaving the visitors requiring only a 3-3 from the finale to clinch the meeting.

For a fleeting moment it looked as if the two sides would play out a superheat after Complin seized an early advantage over Thompson, who recently qualified for the European Under-19 Final, with Bowtell back in third to put the Fen Tigers on a 4-2.

But the impressive Thompson was not to be denied, and after forcing his way past Complin he powered to his fourth victory of the afternoon to secure the win, and with it top spot in the NDL, for the Lion Cubs.

“I had a bit of a blip in my first one as I tried something different which was disappointing as dropping two points in that first race is something I don’t normally do,” said Bowtell.

“Although we lost I thought Ben Trigger rode very well in getting 10 points and he was my rider of the day. It was a case of close but no cigar. That is the best way to sum it up.”

Mildenhall Fen Tigers 44: A Bowtell 11+1, A Butcher 5+1, B Trigger 10, George Congreve 3+1, L Complin 7, W Richardson 3+1, J Warren 5.

Leicester Lion Cubs 46: D Thompson 16+1, A Boughen 8+1, M Perry 7, M James 6+1, J Thompson R/R, V Foord 6+2, S Woods 3+1.