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Mildenhall Fen Tigers' National League Play-Off hopes hinge on meeting at Plymouth Gladiators

Mildenhall Fen Tigers co-owner Phil Kirk warns they must hit the Plymouth Gladiators hard from the word go if they are to secure the victory needed to reach the National League Play-Offs, writes Graham Clark.

Following the Cradley Heathens 46-44 win over the Kent Kings on Monday it means that the Fen Tigers need to win by seven points or more tonight at the Plymouth Coliseum (7.15pm) to claim all four league points on offer to move into the fourth and final play-off spot.

Having defeated the Devon based side 53-37 earlier this month at Mildenhall Stadium, Kirk is confident that the Fen Tigers, who will utlise the rider replacement facility for Charlie Brooks along with welcoming back Henry Atkins, can respond to the task ahead of them.

Mildenhall Fen Tigers Press and Practice DayPhil Kirk Picture by Mark Westley. (16856814)
Mildenhall Fen Tigers Press and Practice DayPhil Kirk Picture by Mark Westley. (16856814)

“It would have been nice if Cradley and Kent would have drawn or Kent won as it would have made things much more simpler but we are in this position because of ourselves and nobody else,” said Kirk.

“If we are going to get the four points we have got to hit them hard early and use our rider replacement rides well.

“I am quietly confident that we can win we just don’t need anyone to have silly bike problems or falling off when in good positions.

“They have got to think about holding on to what points they have got. We have got to get to 49 points by the end of heat 15 it is as simple as that.”

With more than just the points on offer at stake Kirk believes it could be exactly the sort of situation that can further inspire the Fen Tigers, who would face table topping Leicester Lion Cubs should they reach the play-off semi-final, to glory.

“I don’t think the pressure is much difference if we needed a draw or a win it is just a one meeting shoot-out,” said Kirk.

“It might give them some confidence knowing in their mind exactly what they need to do.

“We can talk to them as much as we can but if they want the extra meetings they have to do it on track but they are good enough to do it.”

Though the Gladiators have a number of big hitters in their team capable of making life difficult Kirk believes that the Fen Tigers, who already boast one victory at the Coliseum this season following their 41-49 triumph in the National Trophy, have the ammunition to tame such threats.

“When you look at them on paper they are not as strong as us and we have already won their 41-49 this season with a weaker team,” said Kirk.

“Nathan Stoneman and Richard Andrews are solid riders but their rider replacement for Adam Sheppard means only the reserves and Tom Young can take rides.

“We have got the top end power as in Ryan Kinsley and Jason Edwards we have two real leaders and a track specialist in Henry Atkins while Matt Marson has hit some form.

“At the end of the day we either pack the bikes up after this or we prepare for potentially another four meetings.”

On Sunday both Kinsley and Edwards will represent the Fen Tigers in the National League Riders Championship at Leicester (3pm).

Having already contested both the British U-21 and 19 finals along with the European U-19 final this year Essex-based Edwards hopes put draw from his experiences of those meetings when taking to the shale at the Paul Chapman & Sons Arena at the weekend.

“In simple terms it will be like riding a heat 15 in every race as you have the top 16 riders from the league at the event,” said Fen Tigers ride Edwards.

“Realistically if I can end the meeting with nine or 10 points I will be happy as that should be a middle order finish. Anything above that will be a bonus. I just want to go there and enjoy the day and come away happy with how I’ve raced.”