BUXTON Hitmen will take a slender one-point lead into the return leg of their Knockout Cup tie against Stoke Potters.
The Hitmen won the first leg of the encounter at Hi-Edge on Sunday by 45 points to 44, with Robert Branford (12) and ex-Hitmen rider Jason Garrity (11) both top-scoring for their respective teams.
Afterwards, Hitmen team manager Jack Lee said: “We should be winning by more than just one point at home so this meeting was a bit too close, however it wasn’t for lack of trying. The lads were fired up today but it was dry and dusty and unless you made the gate, passing on the outside was like riding on marbles which is why we saw so many falls and race reruns.
“Stoke are a strong side and we are going to have to work really hard when we go there for the second leg on Saturday to get a win and go onto the next round of the competition, but we are capable of doing it.
“Luke is an ex-Stoke rider and so is Adam, so hopefully we can go there with a positive head on and do the business, as a one-point lead isn’t going to be enough.”
The meeting started well with the Hitmen taking the lead.
However, heat five turned the tables with an unsatisfactory start called by the referee where the Hitmen had the advantage.
The rerun saw the Stoke pairing of Jamie Pickard and guest rider Garrity take a 5-1 to level the scores.
Stoke managed to hold a four-point lead for the next three races until heat nine saw Buxton’s Luke Priest and Branford get their revenge with a 5-1 to draw the scores level.
Heat ten saw another 5-1 for Buxton and a four-point lead until the unstoppable Garrity secured a couple more heat wins to leave Stoke just one point behind by heat 13.
It looked as though heat 15 would decide the meeting’s fate, but a fall from Garrity and his exclusion meant the re-run favoured Buxton.
Stoke’s Tim Webster took the win, but the Hitmen pairing of Ben Taylor and Branford took the other three points on offer.
The Hitmen are next in home action against the Newport Hornets on Sunday May 15 (3pm start).
Buxton Hitmen 45: Ben Taylor 11, Dean Felton 5+1, Luke Priest 6+1, Robert Branford 12, Adam Allott 5, John McPhail 3+1, Ryan Blacklock 3+1.
Stoke Potters 44: Jason Garrity 11, Jamie Pickard 5+1, Gareth Isherwood 3+1, Tony Atkin 6+1, Tim Webster 10, Ben Reade 3+1, James Sarjeant 6.
l THE BUXTON Hitmen’s defence of their National League title got off to a stuttering start in Wales on Bank Holiday Monday.
Against the Newport Hornets, last year’s treble winners went down 56-37 at Queensway Meadows.
Buxton are next in action on Saturday when they take a slender one-point lead into the second leg of their Knockout Cup tie at Stoke Potters.
Newport 56: Todd Kurtz 14+1, Matt Bates 9+1, Jay Herne 9+1, Richard Andrews 7+4, Tom Young 7=1, James Wight-Williams 6+1, David Gough 4.
Buxton 37: Robert Branford 14+1, Adam Allott 9+1, Luke Priest 6+1, Dean Felton 3, Ben Taylor 2, John McPhail 2, Ryan Blacklock 1.