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Mildenhall Fen Tigers co-owner anticipating an improved 2020 National League campaign

Fans of the Mildenhall Fen Tigers can expect to see a much stronger team take to the track next season, according to co-owner Lee Chipchase, following their failure to reach the National League Play-Offs, writes Graham Clark.

Although the Fen Tigers defeated the Plymouth Gladiators 46-44 in their final league match of the campaign, it was not enough to give them the four points required to move above the Cradley Heathens into the fourth and final play-off place.

After describing missing out on the end-of-season shootout as ‘heartbreaking’, Chipchase has vowed to build a team next year that has the potential to go all the way.

Mildenhall Fen Tigers Press and Practice Day Greg Palmer,Malcolm Vasey, Phil Kirk, Lee Chipchase and Kevin Jolly Picture by Mark Westley. (17522040)
Mildenhall Fen Tigers Press and Practice Day Greg Palmer,Malcolm Vasey, Phil Kirk, Lee Chipchase and Kevin Jolly Picture by Mark Westley. (17522040)

“It was heartbreaking as we really thought we had done it but if the National League is back next year so are we and we will be looking to go further than this year,” said Chipchase.

“It was such a difficult night with mixed emotions. We got off to a good start then we went 12 points up with three heats to go I thought we were home and dry.

“We thought they had missed out on not bringing in a tactical sub early on but they got a 5-1 in heat 13 then brought Nathan Stoneman out with Richard Andrews in heat 14 and got another 5-1 before getting a 4-2 in the last heat.

“The boys did well to win but I expected a bit more from some however Jason Edwards and Arran Butcher were outstanding on the night.

“There were plenty of ifs and buts on the night but it really was soul-destroying and every one of the management team were gutted.”

Though the failure to claim four league points against the Gladiators cost the Fen Tigers the chance of a shot at play-off glory, Chipchase believes it was not just down to that result that sealed their fate.

“There are so many things when you look back that didn’t help us,” said Chipchase.

“I don’t want to single out any rider for costing us things but as a team it was little margins that cost us and we never took care of the points – we just needed to be a bit more clever in places.

“We were unlucky with injuries again as we lost Sam Bebee on press and practice day then we lost Danny Ayres, who was the best rider in the league at the time, to a broken leg with just a few meetings to go.

“We took over so late in the day ourselves and that backfired as well as other clubs had their teams in place. Had we been more organised we could have reached the play-offs.”

The season may have ended without any silverware finding its way back to the trophy cabinet at Mildenhall Stadium but it was far from a campaign of doom and gloom in the mind of Chipchase.

“We have finished fifth in the league and we were tipped by some to finish last, so we have proved them all wrong so that was a plus point.

“Beating Plymouth on their own patch in the National Trophy was a big plus point for me and beating Leicester at home in the league was another.

“The crowds have stuck by us and it was a great response opening up the track on the last meeting, and things like that we are keen to do again next year.”

With a year running the West Row club alongside Phil Kirk and Greg Palmer under his belt, Chipchase knows exactly what he is looking for when it comes to assembling a team and with several unnamed riders already making contact, 2020 could be something special.

“Next year we have to have seven riders that are able to ride well away consistently,” said Chipchase. “We went with one real big hitter in Danny Ayres and in hindsight we should have probably gone with two and made sacrifices elsewhere.

“We have already started talking about next year’s team and Kevin Jolly is very keen to be pro-active again.

“Certain riders which will remain unnamed have expressed an interest but all I will say is there are some big names in there.

“We have discussed who we would like back, as ever though it will all depend on the points limit, so it is a case of watching this space.”