Tom Woolley gets the drop on Max Clegg, but not for long Image Credit: Jack Cupido

Solid Gems take the spoils

NEWS Friday 14th May 2021, 11:15pm

by Mike Hunter

The Stellar Devils tumbled to defeat in their second home fixture against a Newcastle Gems team strongly led by Max Clegg, but equally importantly, with solid backup from their other six riders.

It was the solidity the Devils lacked on this occasion, with a tell-tale 11 last places over the evening. Star reserve George Rothery might have pulled them out of their predicament but this time, things didn't go quite right for George. At this stage of his career it is unrealistic to expect him to come up with match-winning performances every week.

Edinburgh chairman Alex Harkess was helping out in the home pits and was in no doubt about the downfall for the Devils. "They had just too many last places I'm afraid, and this time George Rothery wasn't able to cover the gaps even though he rode well again. Well done to Newcastle, a good start for Rob Grant."

The match started with a win for Nathan Greaves over Clegg who pressed him hard all the way. He couldn't afford a mistake but didn't make any, as he set a new National League record time of 58.6. George Rothery raced away with heat 2 against Gems' two impressive 16 year olds and so far, all seemed to be going to plan for the Devils.

In heat 3 though, Kelsey Dugard on his first ever Armadale ride raced away to beat Tom Woolley and the 4-2 to the visitors opened a gap which was never closed for the rest of the night.

Danny Phillips won heat 4 but Gems added another 4-2 in the following heat, and although Greaves won heat 6 the signs were ominous as the Devils recorded their sixth successive last place.

Heat 7 looked much more promising as Phillips and Rothery went ahead. George was perhaps forced slightly wider than he wanted to be and he lost position to Joe Alcock, but at least the Devils had halved the gap.

Heat 8 though was something of a killer for the home hopes as Rothery, replacing Davies, made a bold move to the front on the opening lap but found himself entering the third turn too quickly, and piling into the fence. He had to be out, and Armadale couldn't even get a point in the rerun as Gregor Millar came off in third place and left the track.

Seven down now, and the only tactic available to the team manager was to utilise Rothery again. Once again George was trying to overhaul an opponent, Ryan Terry-Daley this time, on the entry to the third corner, and even though he was more cautious this time he was adjudged to have clipped his opponent and caused him to come down.

There was no doubt about heat 8 but the heat 9 incident was more controversial. After the match George commented "There was definitely contact with Ryan but I felt that he came down on to me rather than the other way round."

For the second week running Nathan Greaves was involved in a heat 10 incident as Alcock lifted leaving the second turn and forced Greaves into the fence. Fortunately again Greaves was OK, and the rerun 4-2 brought the Devils closer again.

Danny Phillips made a great effort to lead Max Clegg into the third corner in heat 11, but we never found out whether Danny might have held on as he slid off. This was another Rothery heat but he could not beat Clegg in the rerun and the Devils were 7 down again.

Highlighting his importance to the team Rothery was introduced once again into heat 12, for what was remarkably his fifth ride in six heats (and sixth overall). This time George shook off the effects of his previous disappointments and led all the way, with Tom Woolley backing up for a 5-1 over the visiting reserves.

So the gap was 3 points with 3 heats left – however Max Clegg was in two of them. Looking at the personnel it did seem clear that someone in the home camp had to beat Max at least once, but no-one was able to achieve this. George Rothery did win heat 14 but it was shared again as these last places continued to thwart the Devils' efforts.

Very well done to the Gems though, they have some excellent young riders and as I said, a solid team in backup to star man Max Clegg.