Buxton Hitmen 56 Sittingbourne Crusaders 31 FOLLOWING three weeks of inactivity, the Buxton Hitmen cruised to an impressive win over the Sittingbourne Crusaders in the Conference League on Sunday, picking up the two league points as well as the extra point for an aggregate win.
The Hitmen made two changes, with Andy Braithwaite and Aaron Summers missing, they drafted in Tom Hill for Braithwaite while Summers, riding for Edinburgh at Mildenhall, was replaced with 16-year-old Paul Starke.
Crusaders team looked strong on paper, led by Danny Warwick, a Premier League rider with Somerset, ex-Hitman Dean Felton and former Rye House rider Harland Cook.
Buxton skipper Jon Bethell got the home team off to a good start as he cut inside Warwick on the second turn of the opening heat to take a good win.
His partner Hill fell on the first lap and pulled up later in the race as the points were shared 3-3. Heat 2 saw Lewis Dallaway taking an early lead but behind him Sittingbourne's Joe Reynolds fell on the fourth turn as the riders struggled with the track conditions.
Starke came home in third in his first race in the Conference League, looking steady as he completed the four laps without too much drama.
Ben Taylor made light of the grippy conditions as he attacked the track in Heat 3 and the Hitman won by some way from partner Scott James.
James had spent most of the race behind Felton until he passed the former Buxton man as they entered the final lap.
The maximum points opened up a six-point advantage for the home team but this was cut in the next race after an eventful heat. The first running saw Mark Baseby run wide on the first turn to go from first to third and on the next lap, he clipped Starke as he tried to pass and they both fell with the referee excluding Baseby.
In the re-run Buxton's Jack Roberts was forced into a late bike change and came out on Dallaway's bike. Roberts led until the bike stopped on the second lap to leave Sittingbourne's Jerran Hart to take the win ahead of Starke.
The Hitmen gained their second 5-1 as the pairing of James and Taylor repeated their earlier performance as they came in first and second in Heat 5. Taylor rode an excellent first turn to hold Warwick wide as James slipped up the inside and Warwick never got on terms with the Buxton pair, eventually retiring at the end of the third lap. Heat 6 was yet another eventful race as Bethell led until the race was stopped after Hill fell awkwardly.
Bethell was again in front in the re-run after clashing with Baseby on the first turn until the race was stopped for a second time as Reynolds crashed out of second place on the opening lap and was hurt. Referee Stuart Wilson angered the Sittingbourne camp by awarding the race as Bethell was well in front of Baseby when Reynolds fell but the Crusaders' protestations came to nothing.
The Sittingbourne pair took full advantage and picked up maximum points in the re-run and this closed to gap to 10 points. The visitors then used their first tactical move to further reduce the deficit as they put Mark Baseby on a double-points tactical ride. Some felt this was a strange move as he had scored just two points from his two rides and he was out against the unbeaten pair of Taylor and James.
The home pair made the start and Baseby ran wide on the first turn, causing his partner to go even wider. Hart fell and was excluded. Baseby got the better of James in the re-run as Taylor led but James wasn't in the mood to settle for third and passed Baseby on the second turn of the final lap.
There was more good speedway in the following race as Felton found a way around the outside of Bethell on the third turn of the opening lap but Bethell took advantage of Felton running offline at the start of the second lap to regain the lead.
By now the Hitmen were well in command of the meeting and after Heat 11, it was al over as a contest. Warwick shot from the start but couldn't hold his line around the first turn and ran wide.
Roberts took full advantage to pass inside and take the lead and Dallaway passed Aaron Baseby along the back straight to move into second. Warwick slowed with mechanical trouble on the second lap and Baseby took a tumble on the fourth turn to cause the race to be stopped.
The referee certainly crossed himself off Sittingbourne's Christmas Card list as he awarded the race result as a 5-0 to Buxton with Baseby excluded for his fall while Warwick was excluded for not being under power when the race was stopped. Again the Crusaders protested as Warwick was still moving, albeit coasting, but for the second time Mr Wilson refused to change his mind.
James won a somewhat mundane Heat 12 and Warwick finally showed his class as he defeated Bethell and Roberts in Heat 13. Hart made the gate in the penultimate race with Taylor second and Dallaway passed Cook around the outside on the third turn of the opening lap. Taylor, unbeaten at that stage, then shot inside Hart as they approached the third turn on the next lap and while Taylor held his line, Hart ran a little wide with Dallaway seizing his chance and he followed Taylor through.
All that was left was for Taylor to complete his maximum and he did so by winning the final race with Felton heading Bethell home for second. Next up for the Hitmen are away trips to Stoke and Plymouth during the week before they are next in action at home.
On Sunday they meet the Weymouth Wildcats in the Conference League and they will no doubt be looking for revenge after the Wildcats knocked the Hitmen out of the Cup. Start time for all of the action is 3pm.
BUXTON – J Bethell 12, T Hill 0, S James 10+2, B Taylor 14+1, J Roberts 7+1, L Dallaway 9+3, P Starke 4.
SITTINGBOURNE – D Warwick 5, A Baseby 5+1, D Felton 8, H Cook 2+1, M Baseby 3, J Reynolds 0, J Hart 8+2.