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Injured Mildenhall Fen Tigers rider James Shanes backing team-mates to thrive across crucial weekend

Injured rider James Shanes is confident the Mildenhall Fen Tigers can overturn a three-point deficit against the Berwick Bullets to book their place in this year’s National Development League (NDL) Play-off Final.

After going down 46-43 in the opening leg of the fixture at Shiefield Park on Saturday night, the Fen Tigers must win by four points or more if they are to secure an aggregate victory over the Bullets and move a step closer to retaining their NDL title.

The Fen Tigers will utilise the rider replacement facility to cover for Shanes along with bringing in guest Danny Phillips for Jack Kingston, who suffered concussion following a fall at the weekend, and unattached three pointer Luke Harrison to cover for Sam Bebee.

James Shanes will miss this weekend's action because of an arm injury. Picture: Derek Leader
James Shanes will miss this weekend's action because of an arm injury. Picture: Derek Leader

Although Shanes, who has been sidelined since July with a broken arm sustained in a grass track meeting, feels the Fen Tigers are in a strong position to set up a clash against the Leicester Lion Cubs in the final, he feels now is the time his team-mates need to think about the bigger picture.

Shanes, who will be replaced by guest Danny Phillips on Sunday (3pm), said: “The lads rode really well at Berwick as that is quite a tricky track so to go there and walk away with only a three-point deficit is a good start for the weekend.

“We scored very well against them at home in the regular fixture beating them 57-33 so it looks very promising and hopefully we can get the four points we need to get through.

“Three points is nothing and I would be trying to get this established quickly then just consolidate it.

“If it meant taking 3-3s over 4-2s or big 5-1s it is better to sit back and do that and not drop silly points as that can cause problems.

“They’ve done really well to get to the play-offs and credit goes to the riders and management for holding down the fort and getting good guests in at the right time.”

Less than 24 hours before hosting the Bullets the West Row-based outfit will travel to the Paul Chapman & Sons Arena to take on the Leicester Lion Cubs in the opening leg of the NDL Knock Out Cup final (7pm), where Shanes will be replaced by Lee Complin and rider replacement will be used to cover Kingston.

The Holywell Row-based rider added: “It will be tough to beat Leicester at home as they are a very good side and it is a technical track.

“Looking at their scores though they have stalled a little bit in recent performances.

“We might be able to jump out and catch them out early but that will only happen if we are sharp from the start of the meeting.

“The fixture is going to be won at reserve and in the middle order as the Thompson twins (Dan and Joe) are very difficult to beat around there and Connor Coles is going well.

“Their reserves can be good if on a going day but if they have an off day we have to make sure we pounce and put them under pressure.

“Lee Complin has got plenty of experience and he is a real trier.

“We have to finish within single figures of them as that will give us a good chance of clawing it back in the second leg.”

While encouraged to see the Fen Tigers still being in with a chance of silverware in both the league and cup, Shanes, who was due to undergo an operation on his right arm yesterday, admitted he is gutted he cannot be part of the action on the track.

He added: “I was hoping to be back for the play-offs and I was on track. Everything was going well then I got an infection in the metal work which went into the bone and now the bone hasn’t healed properly.

“I’m now having surgery on that and have some different metal work put in.

“I will have to start the healing process again which will take about three months but hopefully I will be back for next season.

“It is frustrating as I was close to achieving something and it is demoralising as I’m quite an active person. Hopefully I can come out the other side stronger.”

As the time of publication it was still to be confirmed who would come in for Bebee in the opening leg of the Fen Tigers' NDL KO Cup final.