Home   Kent   News   Article

Latest Crusaders defeat clouded in controversy

THE weekend's events at the Old Gun Site just served to underline how much bad luck Sittingbourne AC Associates Crusaders Speedway club have suffered this season.

Still chasing that elusive first home win, the Crusaders - for the second week running - led for the majority of each match in the double-header versus Armadale and Boston, only to find the fates conspiring against them.

The Iwade-based side tumbled to a last heat reverse against the Scots and then were involved in a disturbing incident that cost them the points at the climax of a closely fought encounter with the Barracuda-Braves.

Excellent performances by the Crusaders' reserve pairing Jordan Frampton and Mark Baseby in the opening match against the Armadale side from Edinburgh proved in the end just not quite enough to end the longest run without a home win in Speedway's Conference League.

Once again it was a case of the building blocks seemingly being in place but a series of largely unforced errors that eventually brought the home side's house tumbling down.

Struggling for fitness, Andre Cross fell when second in the re-run of heat nine and Frampton crashed out when comfortably leading three heats later - lost points that cost Sittingbourne dearly.

That was tough on Frampton whose superb passing manoeurve over the highly-rated Gary Beaton in heat six showed the Swindon-based rider was back to his very best - in his last match of the season for the Kent side.

In an incident-packed meeting, the pivotal moment came in heat six.

The visiting Dale Devils' skipper Sean Stoddart picked up extra dirt as he pursued his counterpart in the Crusaders side at the end of lap one and he banged heavily into the side of Chris Hunt.

Immediately, Stoddart slowed to gesture an apology to Hunt but the damage was done and the stricken Sittingbourne captain was removed from the centre green by ambulance having suffered a badly bruised knee.

The loss of Hunt came on top of the non-appearance of Shane Colvin (away grass-tracking), so it was an excellent effort by a weakened side to force the match into yet another home last heat decider.

However, with League average-topper Derek Sneddon invincible on the afternoon (a broken rear chain the only blip on his scorecard) and Stoddart out in that one, there was to be no way back and the Crusaders had again turned a lead going into the final stages into narrow defeat.

If the first half of this well-attended double-header had been eventful, the second was positively explosive.

The match started in controversy when Boston team manager Malcolm Vasey asked the referee to approve a late change to their line-up as they wanted to add former Crusader James Cockle for Rider Replacement purposes.

The match official insisted that the Conference League co-ordinator was phoned for a decision and, despite what the rules about team declarations say, the move was sanctioned.

With this move meaning that another ex-Crusader, David McAllan, could now take six rides, and with the injured Hunt replaced by youngster Dan Blake, it seemed that the AC Associates Crusaders had little chance.

However, a new hero emerged in James Theobald who recorded a memorable win over Darren Mallett in a titanic heat six and then, partnered by Mark Baseby, saw the homesters open up a remarkable eight point lead two races later.

Despite the handsome lead, though, there were misgivings over some more cheaply surrendered points.

Cross fell when second in heat five and the plucky Frampton had fallen when similarly placed in heat two, before locking up to surrender a point to Simon Lambert on the last lap of heat seven.

When Frampton suffered a similar fate when splitting the Boston pair in heat 10, the match began to slip away from Sittingbourne. But what followed was a trio of races that will long stay in the memory of the embittered home fans.

Heat 11 opened with the impressive Peter Collyer and Baseby falling in what seemed traditional first bend bunching, only for the Crusaders' number six to be excluded from the re-run.

In the following heat it was the turn of Cross and the Barracuda-Braves' Adam Lowe to fail to negotiate the first two bends, with the stand-in Sittingbourne skipper receiving the exclusion. The resulting two 4-2s to the visitors meant it was back to all-square.

Heat 13 was a comedy of errors: but no-one at the Old Gun Site was laughing.

Blake fell on the first bend and then so did Boston's Jeremy Pestell. The latter remounted but the Crusaders' youngster was having trouble moving his bike. The referee saw no reason to put on the red light but an understandably anxious marshal waved the red flag.

Race leader, the imperious McAllan slowed to a halt, signaling by the usual raised hand to the closely following Cross to stop. As he did so, it became apparent that the ref was not intending to stop the race and Pestell restarted, passing the still stationary Cross as, slowly at first, the three riders began again to race.

The 5-1 essentially clinched victory for Boston - though a winning time of 72.1 tells its own story - sparking angry scenes. The consequences of that controversial stop-start race made it a sad day for long-time track owner Graham Arnold.

"I never thought it would ever come to this," explained a disappointed club chairman, as he took the microphone to address a highly agitated crowd at the Old Gun Site.

"But after 11 years I am for the first time going to have lodge an official protest. The events of heat 13 leave us no choice. As far as I'm concerned if a marshal puts out a red flag - even if by mistake - the race must be stopped."

Mr Arnold added: "That lost us a match we deserved to win but more than anything it's a health and safety issue.

"The safety of riders has always been paramount to us at Sittingbourne Speedway Club and if riders are in any way discouraged, as this decision has done, from responding to marshals' red flags or the genuine signals of other riders warning them of danger, then this causes me great concern."

Next up at the Old Gun Site is the visit of the Rye House Raiders from Hertfordshire for the final league match of the season on Saturday, 1pm start.

Scores and scorers:

Sittingbourne 43 - 47 Armadale
Crusaders scorers: J Frampton 13; M Baseby 12; P Collyer 9; J Theobald 5; A Cross 2; C Hunt 2; A Baseby 0.

Sittingbourne 42 - 48 Boston
Crusaders scorers: J Theobald 12; P Collyer 11; M Baseby 7; A Cross 5; J Frampton 5; D Blake 2; A Baseby did not ride

Crusaders riders Andre Cross (red) and Peter Collyer (blue) leading Boston pairing Simon Lambert (green) and Darren MAllet (yellow) in heat three

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More