Nail-Biting Time in the Elite League Play-Offs
The regular Speedway season is over and the play-offs are under way but who are going to become Elite League Champions for 2014?
I have to admit right away that I’m not a fan of play-offs. Isn’t a season that sees each team race 32 meetings enough to decide the league champions? It’s a bit like having the F1 season and then after the last race asking the top four drivers in the standings to race off for the title. It’s just this desire to have a definitive ending to the season, that day when you know the champions are going to be crowned and of course it makes extra money.
But take a look at the final Elite League table that saw Poole top on 70 points finishing level on points with King’s Lynn but placed top on point’s difference. Coventry finished in 3rd on 64 points yet Swindon who finished fourth with 55 could repeat last year’s feat and win the play-offs. Should a team finishing 15 points behind the leaders still have a chance of becoming champions?
Now for those of you unfamiliar with the play-off system in Speedway, Poole, having finished top of the table, had the right to choose their opponents in the semi-finals. They decided to take on second-placed King’s Lynn who just failed to win the title after losing their last meet at Belle Vue. You might think that was a strange decision but Poole Pirates promoter Matt Ford said: “We might just have a better chance against King’s Lynn than Coventry.” Poole had won at Coventry recently but Ford felt an injury to Kyle Howarth helped them win that meet.
So it’s the top two from the league who meet in the play-offs while Coventry take on Swindon. The first legs took place this Monday and it’s still difficult to predict the two teams that will make the final.
Poole managed to come away from King’s Lynn with a 45-44 victory on a circuit that was hit by heavy rain. A dramatic Heat 12 tipped the scales in Poole’s favour and it was Captain Maciej Janowski who was on top form with a 12+1 against his former club. With the home leg to come you have to fancy the Pirates will come out on top.
Poole might have been wise to choose to avoid Coventry after they beat Swindon 49-41 in the other semi-final first leg. Coventry got off to a great start soon going six points up but Swindon fought back to level the scores after Heat 8. Three 5-1 victories for Coventry then ensured a healthy lead going into the second leg. Just like at King’s Lynn it was the captain who was in great form with Coventry skipper Chris Harris scoring 11+2.
Coventry Bees promoter Gary Havelock isn’t counting his chickens just yet though and still believes “the tie is wide open.” Swindon promoter Alun Rossiter certainly hasn’t given up hope believing Monday’s result “could have been better but it could have been worse.” Swindon captain Troy Batchelor who scored 10+1 for his side on Monday charmingly said afterwards: “If we can get out in front I think we can sort them out.” He might just have a point there because when Coventry last travelled to Swindon they found themselves on the end of a 60-31 thrashing.
Whatever happens, it looks like being a fantastic Monday night’s racing and I’ll be writing about that next week and previewing the final.