Armadale Devils
Nathan Greaves 15 (5)
Belle Vue Colts
Harry McGurk 13+3 (7)
National Development League
48
42
Saturday 19th June 2021
Armadale Stadium
Armadale Devils
Team Manager: Alan Budzynski
48
1. Nathan Greaves 3 3 3 3 3 15 0
2. Sheldon Davies 1 0 1 2 0
3. Danny Phillips 2 3 1* 3 1 10 1
4. George Rothery 1* 1 2 3 7 1
5. Tom Woolley 2 3 XO 1 6 0
6. Lewis Millar 1* XO 1 1 3 1
7. Gregor Millar 2 1* F 1 1 5 1
Belle Vue Colts
Team Manager: Stepehen Williams
42
1. Jack Parkinson-Blackburn 2 2 3 0 0 7 0
2. Ben Woodhull FD 0 0
3. Benji Compton 3 1* 2 6 1
4. Paul Bowen F 2 3 2 F 7 0
5. Connor Coles F 2 3 2 2 9 0
6. Sam Woolley 0 0 FD 0 0 0
7. Harry McGurk 3 3 1* 2* 2* 0 2 13 3
Heat 1
Time: 57.7
1. Nathan Greaves  
3
2. Sheldon Davies  
1
1. Jack Parkinson-Blackburn  
2
2. Ben Woodhull  
FD
 
Heat
Score
Match
Score
Home
4
4
Away
2
2
Heat 2
Time: 61.4
6. Lewis Millar  
1
7. Gregor Millar  
2
6. Sam Woolley  
0
7. Harry McGurk  
3
 
Heat
Score
Match
Score
Home
3
7
Away
3
5
Heat 3
 
3. Danny Phillips  
2
4. George Rothery  
1
3. Benji Compton  
3
4. Paul Bowen  
F
 
Heat
Score
Match
Score
Home
3
10
Away
3
8
Heat 4
Time: 60.8
5. Tom Woolley  
2
7. Gregor Millar  
1
5. Connor Coles  
F
7. Harry McGurk  
3
 
Heat
Score
Match
Score
Home
3
13
Away
3
11
Heat 5
Time: 60.7
3. Danny Phillips  
3
4. George Rothery  
1
1. Jack Parkinson-Blackburn  
2
2. Ben Woodhull  Non-Starter
6. Sam Woolley
0
 
Heat
Score
Match
Score
Home
4
17
Away
2
13
Heat 6
Time: 59.4
1. Nathan Greaves  
3
2. Sheldon Davies  
0
5. Connor Coles  
2
6. Sam Woolley  
7. Harry McGurk
1
 
Heat
Score
Match
Score
Home
3
20
Away
3
16
Heat 7
Time: 60.9
5. Tom Woolley  
3
6. Lewis Millar  
XO
3. Benji Compton  
1
4. Paul Bowen  
2
 
Heat
Score
Match
Score
Home
3
23
Away
3
19
Heat 8
Time: 63.6
2. Sheldon Davies  
6. Lewis Millar
1
7. Gregor Millar  
F
2. Ben Woodhull  Non-Starter
4. Paul Bowen
3
7. Harry McGurk  
2
 
Heat
Score
Match
Score
Home
1
24
Away
5
24
Heat 9
Time: 60.0
3. Danny Phillips  
1
4. George Rothery  
2
5. Connor Coles  
3
6. Sam Woolley  
FD
 
Heat
Score
Match
Score
Home
3
27
Away
3
27
Heat 10
Time: 60.5
1. Nathan Greaves  
3
2. Sheldon Davies  
1
3. Benji Compton  2Min
6. Sam Woolley
0
4. Paul Bowen  
2
 
Heat
Score
Match
Score
Home
4
31
Away
2
29
Heat 11
Time: 62.0
5. Tom Woolley  
XO
6. Lewis Millar  
1
1. Jack Parkinson-Blackburn  
3
2. Ben Woodhull  Non-Starter
7. Harry McGurk
2
 
Heat
Score
Match
Score
Home
1
32
Away
5
34
Heat 12
Time: 60.6
3. Danny Phillips  
3
7. Gregor Millar  
1
3. Benji Compton  
2
6. Sam Woolley  
7. Harry McGurk
0
 
Heat
Score
Match
Score
Home
4
36
Away
2
36
Heat 13
Time: 62.1
1. Nathan Greaves  
3
5. Tom Woolley  
1
1. Jack Parkinson-Blackburn  
0
5. Connor Coles  
2
 
Heat
Score
Match
Score
Home
4
40
Away
2
38
Heat 14
Time: 63.1
4. George Rothery  
3
6. Lewis Millar  
7. Gregor Millar
1
4. Paul Bowen  
F
7. Harry McGurk  
2
 
Heat
Score
Match
Score
Home
4
44
Away
2
40
Heat 15
Time: 60.2
3. Danny Phillips  
1
1. Nathan Greaves  
3
1. Jack Parkinson-Blackburn  
0
5. Connor Coles  
2
 
Heat
Score
Match
Score
Home
4
48
Away
2
42

After a match of contrasting fortunes with both teams holding the lead at some point, and never more than 4 points in it until after the final heat, the Stellar Devils were happy to get over the line with a 48-42 victory over Belle Vue Colts in the National Development League.

Devils' team boss Alan Budzynski said "I was delighted to get the win against a good team such as Belle Vue. I was pleased that our second strings are starting to put together some good rides, I have said previously that all it needed was patience. The whole team worked together well in the pits."

Belle Vue lost their captain Ben Woodhull in a first bend, first heat tumble, so they deserved their point. Woodhull later emerged with his arm in a sling but still encouraging his team mates.

Nathan Greaves was completely dominant throughout the afternoon, as befits a rider who is scoring solidly in the Championship at the moment, and he helped Devils to an opening 4-2 . The next three heats were all shared with visiting riders Benji Compton and Harry McGurk (twice) taking the chequered flag.

A heat 5 win by Danny Phillips over Colts' no. 1 Parkinson-Blackburn produced another 4-2, with assistance from George Rothery, who was feeling his way back to confidence after a series off falls in recent meetings.

Benji Compton looked to be on his way to another win in heat 7, but the heat was stopped just before the finish after Lewis Millar charged under Paul Bowen, allegedly causing the Colt to fall. Surprisingly the referee called for a rerun, and this time Tom Woolley got the better of a great tussle with Compton.

The score was now 23-19 but the Colts hit right back with a 5-1 from Bowen (injury rider replacement for Woodhull) and McGurk. Coles won heat 9 in another rerun race after Phillips had initially led, which maybe was payback for Woolley's win in heat 7.

Sheldon Davies had maybe his best ride to date in heat 10 when he almost held off Bowen for a 5-1 with Greaves, just losing out in the latter stages. Colts were unlucky here as Benji Compton missed the heat while receiving treatment for a wrist injury.

The track staff were working hard to keep the dust down, always a problem on a sunny afternoon, but also trying to avoid making the track too tricky. Tom Woolley was caught out in heat 11 which he led until his wobble caused Parkinson-Blackburn to lay down, leading to Woolley's exclusion. The Colts took a 5-1 in the rerun and went ahead for the first time in the match.

It looked as though it could go either way, but as it turned out all the last four heats finished 4-2 to the Devils. Benji Compton was back in the fray for heat 12 but he was beaten by Phillips and a spirited third place from the back by Gregor Millar over McGurk completed the 4-2.

Same result in heat 13 with Greaves dominant as ever but Connor Coles pulling off a good pass on Woolley, who ran into difficulties and just held on to the point ahead of Parkinson-Blackburn.

Heat 14 looked as though it could go either way but it proved to be a return to form by George Rothery who led all the way, plus an excellent third from the back by Gregor Millar against Bowen.

So it was a 4-point lead for Devils and with Greaves in the final heat, victory seemed assured. Phillips held second for a while but eventually lost it to Coles, which was enough to ensure that the Belle Vue Colts got a point. No-one was going to begrudge them that.

It was announced post-meeting that the Armadale Devils will be making a team change with Sheldon Davies moving out. Alan Budzynski commented "Sheldon is a trier and I'd like to thank him for his persistence and support. He needs to work a bit on his speed and maybe we were asking a little too much of him. Although people say this league is not about results, it isn't fair on the heat leaders to be asking them to take so much of the load. We wish Sheldon all the luck in his future career."

Sheldon's replacement will be announced tomorrow.

Far from making excuses for the Devils' slow start to their comeback campaign, maintaining any degree of momentum with meetings so stop-start, and often, expansively spread out cannot be easy.

Such is the nature of a National Development League consisting of eight teams battling to grab what consistency they can across just 14 fixtures. Of course, these are circumstances that apply to everyone. It could be said, in fact, that what might class as a "busy" spell for Armadale has already gone, with more than a third of their meetings fulfilled before the beginning of July (only runaway leaders Berwick have been more active). And with only three points picked up from their five outings, the Devils' opening sequence could have gone better. As it is though, they languish near the bottom of the table, trailed only by once-out Kent and Mildenhall who have yet to rev an engine.

So, in the race for excuses, Armadale have a lot less claim than some of their rivals.

One rider who shouldn't suffer through inactivity or an interrupted programme is Nathan Greaves who has, it appears, benefitted greatly from doubling up in the Championship with parent club Edinburgh. With a current CMA of 9.60, the skipper is on fire at the moment.

What then, we must ask, is Tom Woolley's secret? With his average a fraction over one less than Nathan's, the Burton-on-Trent lad is certainly busy in one respect – busy proving himself a real find for Alan Budzynsky's side.

For Danny Phillips and George Rothery, the key to success will be consistency. As our third heat-leader, Danny has delivered a decent return so far and although he has just once managed double-figures, it was courtesy of a top-scoring 11 at Newcastle on an otherwise barren afternoon.

Since bursting on to the scene with an astonishing 38 point haul from reserve over his opening three (top-scoring) outings, George's fortunes have taken a dive somewhat with a hairy series of spills that is bound to have dented that early aplomb significantly. As we've seen though, not much phases G.R., and I'm sure Saturday's clash with Belle Vue can't come quick enough for Scottish speedway's latest cult hero.

The lean times, in relative times, shared by Armadale's three remaining youngsters, Sheldon Davies and the Millar brothers, Gregor and Lewis, should, in an ideal world, give way to better days ahead. All three have shown glimpses, albeit fleetingly, of their true potential, and with the dust beginning to settle on the season's dawning, the coming months offer each of them the opportunity to up the ante, both individually and also towards a more unified effort across the whole team.

Collectively, Armadale's results haven't been as disastrous as their league position suggests, despite four of the five being defeats. All three away meetings have been against tough opposition yet only once (Newcastle) were we beaten by a margin greater than ten points. So, I would argue there is light at the end of the tunnel – a light that will hopefully increase in intensity as the season progresses.

On the subject of tough opposition, Saturday's visitors to West Lothian, the Belle Vue Colts, certainly fall into that category. However, with a win (home) and a defeat (away) from there two matches to date, predicting a likely outcome to their season overall might be premature.

The loss of Jordan Palin and Kyle Bickley from 2020's proposed line-up must have been a daunting blow for the Colts' management team of Graham Goodwin and Steve Williams but they have managed to rebuild an intriguing blend of familiar and up and coming names.

Remarkably, three of those names return to speedway after long periods away from the sport. As a teenager, the sky appeared to be the limit for Jack Parkinson-Blackburn before serious injury and a life-threatening road accident in 2018 halted his career in its tracks. Still only 20 though, he has battled back to full fitness and starts at No.1 with many predicting a strong season for the Yorkshireman.

Spanish-born Benji Compton is another with a sizeable gap in his speedway C.V. He's back though, and at 34, his experience riding for the likes of Scunthorpe, Sheffield and Redcar, not to mention a stint in Poland, will help the younger members of the Colts' squad.

Paul Bowen sat out the 2019 after joining Belle Vue II the previous year. The 32-year old will make up the team's middle order with Ben Woodhull who doesn't turn 20 until November. Apart from a brief spell with Buxton, Ben has been a Colt since entering the National League in 2017. A great deal of expectation lies on the Chorley-born rider's shoulders with those in charge at the NSS predicting 2021 as his breakthrough year.

One rider familiar to Edinburgh Monarchs fans is 26-year-old Connor Coles, who spent part of 2019 at the Lothian Arena. Son of former Belle Vue Ace Michael Cole, Connor will form the team's heat-leading trio with Parkinson-Blackburn and Compton.

Like with Armadale and Leicester, Belle Vue's reserve berths will be populated by brothers. Less than two years separate Bradford-born Harry McGurk and younger sibling Sam with the latter celebrating his 15th birthday not long ago. In Spite of their age, both are among the country's best and most keenly sought after fledgling talents. Unfortunately, Sam misses out on Saturday through injury and will be replaced by the unattached Sam Woolley, brother of Tom.

A well-balanced septet by the looks of it although emulating the successes of the likes of Dan Bewley, Kyle Bickley, Jordan Palin and Ben Woodhull's twin brother Luke, who have all worn the Colts' race jacket before them, won't be easy.