Mildenhall Fen Tigers set to lock horns with fellow National Development League play-off contenders Leicester Lion Cubs
Mildenhall Fen Tigers team manager Jason Gardner has called for fans to turn out in force for the club’s showdown with reigning National Development League (NDL) champions Leicester Lion Cubs on Sunday (4pm).
After a near month-long break the Fen Tigers will return to action against the Lion Cubs at the weekend, when they will bid to extend their lead at the top of the NDL table and bolster their hopes of securing one of the two end-of-season play-off spots.
The Fen Tigers are currently unbeaten in all competitions at home this season, although Gardner expects that record to be put under severe pressure from the Lion Cubs, who sit just a point behind the West Row-based outfit in third.
But despite anticipating that the Fen Tigers will be given a real test of their credentials, Gardner believes that it is a challenge they will respond better to if they are backed by a large crowd on the terraces at the Mildenhall Stadium.
“The way I look at the league it is between us, Leicester and Oxford for the two play-off spots,” said Gardner.
“There are five points up for grabs against Leicester and we need to keep up our home record by winning against them to put us in a good position to pick up the aggregate bonus point when we go back up there.
“I said at the start of the season Leicester have the strongest side on paper as they have good all-round strength.
“Our crowds for the last couple of home meetings have been down. The boys really appreciate the support and great backing they get which has helped keep the club going.
“They really respond to the cheers from the fans as it helps push them on and get them going on the track.
“It would really help if everyone could spread the word and bring someone new along or someone who hasn’t been for a while to show them what they have been missing as the racing this year has been the best for a few seasons."
The Lion Cubs will use the rider replacement facility for Joe Thompson, who is out with a broken collarbone, and Sam Woods for fellow injury victim Tom Spencer at reserve. However, they still have a number of big hitters among their ranks, including Dan Thompson.
Nevertheless, Gardner has faith in his side’s ability to get the job done, but he feels that there will be two key areas which could help to determine the end result.
Gardner added: “It has been a while since the boys all raced together but Arran (Butcher) has done some sand racing and Ben (Trigger) has recently spent a week riding out in Poland and Josh (Warren) guested for Kent recently.
“William (Richardson), Arran and George (Congreve) are all riding on the Isle Of Wight tonight weather permitting. It is good to see the lads getting some track time as nothing beats race sharpness.
“As for this weekend’s meeting Leicester have got a match winner at two in Ashton Boughen and I did consider switching the team around but I’ve left it as it is.
“I’d like to think the middle order of Ben and George will be a pairing that can influence the outcome. Josh at reserve has been finishing meetings well, we just need to get him to start one well as that could be crucial as well.
“If Alfie (Bowtell) and Lee (Complin) can max out, or get close, then I think we have enough in the locker to beat them.”
There is also the matter of personal pride on offer for Gardner at the weekend with the Lion Cubs being the only current NDL team that he is yet to taste victory over during his time as Fen Tigers team manager.
And Gardner believes there would be no better time to change that statistic with the potential of the two clubs set to clash in the final of the NDL Knock Out Cup for the second year running later in the season, along with the return NDL fixture at Beaumont Park.
“We do owe Leicester a result as they beat us six times last year. They are the only team I’ve not had a win against so it would be nice if we could beat them,” said Gardner.
“The likelihood is that we will also ride them in the Knock Out Cup final and this could lay down a real marker for that as well.”