ANDREAS Jonsson almost single-handedly prevented history from repeating itself at Brandon on Monday as the Buildbase Bees charged on towards a top two finish.
Back in April, Bees hit the Hammers for seven consecutive 5-1s at the start of their Elite League 'A' match - and it was a similar story this time around with five maximum heat wins to give themselves full control, and former skipper Jonsson was the only opposing rider to beat a home man in that time.
Jonsson's return to Brandon was a huge personal success, despite his shoulder injury, but there was never any chance of his team providing enough support to snatch an away win and damage his parent club's title prospects. The Hammers had, in fact, been expected to provide a much sterner test - but with Adam Shields blowing hot and cold and Krzysztof Kasprzak seemingly beset with problems, Jonsson was their only consistent threat.
By contrast, Bees' so-solid six put in another consistent display, the only two last places coming from Rory Schlein, who continues to struggle with the effects of illness. Schlein, though, was the only man to take the scalp of Jonsson whilst the reserves were both paid for 13 as Billy Janniro continues to clock up bonus points at an alarming rate!
Jonsson flew from gate three to take Heat 1 from Scott Nicholls and Janniro, but Coventry immediately put themselves in the driving seat with Janniro hitting the front in Heat 2 and Steve Johnston making his way inside Ricky Kling at the end of the first lap. Two more 5-1s followed with Bees displaying mastery on the second bend in particular; first, Martin Smolinski's inside line under Leigh Lanham also took him past Kasprzak to link up with Schlein in Heat 3 and then Johnston cut under Lubos Tomicek and Adam Shields in Heat 4 for a 5-1 with Chris Harris.
Jonsson took the black-and-white helmet colour in Heat 5 but was out-gated by Schlein, and there was then a fine battle for the lead with the two riders taking different lines around the circuit but Schlein always emerging from the bends in front.
And with the Hammers' No.1 then not due out until Heat 11, Bees extended their lead with maximum points in Heat 6, Johnston superbly finding a gap between Shields and Kling in the early stages of the race, and Harris and Janniro then went either side of Kasprzak on the back straight in Heat 7, the Pole eventually coasting to a standstill when well behind.
Shields finally became the second visitor to beat a Coventry rider in Heat 8, and he actually beat two as after initially being overtaken by Johnston on lap one, he made it back around the outside off the fourth bend and then built his lead whilst Harris, who had missed the start, took a couple of laps to move into second place.
Shields was back out again to win Heat 9 over a hard-pressing Smolinski with Kling, who displayed plenty of promise, holding off Schlein for third place. But the Hammers revival was quickly dampened by Smolinski and Nicholls in Heat 10, their task being made all the easier by Kasprzak's failure to make it around more than half a lap before his machine expired.
The closing stages were all about Jonsson as he decisively won Heat 11 ahead of Harris and Janniro, and there was then another Hammers 4-2 in Heat 12 with Kasprzak finally getting things right to lead Johnston, Kling again holding on to third place over Schlein. Heat 13 was stopped for an unsatisfactory start when the Bees appeared to have moved into an advantageous position, and the re-run saw Jonsson drive supremely to the front into turn one, with Nicholls so close to moving inside him on the back straight.
Smolinski, who had another highly effective meeting, produced a great move in Heat 14 to get around both Lubos Tomicek and Kling on the back straight and then drop in with Janniro, although by the end of the race the Bees riders had contrived to switch positions to give Smolinski the win.
And the last race was one of the best of the night with Jonsson and Nicholls exchanging elbows into the first bend, Jonsson just emerging in front, and then defying every effort of Nicholls to find a way through with the two racing virtually wheel-to-wheel up the back straight on more than one occasion. Jonsson held on, though, and fully deserved his ovation from the Coventry crowd.
The ex-Bees man may have taken the individual plaudits on the night, but as far as the team performance as a whole went, this was another most effective performance from Coventry who have put themselves right in the box seat for a top-two finish - but they are fully aware of the importance of the meetings to come.
COVENTRY 58 ARENA ESSEX-LAKESIDE 34 Monday 27th August 2007 - Sky Sports Elite League 'B'
BUILDBASE BEES Scott Nicholls 2 3 2* 2 2 = 11+1 Olly Allen R/R Rory Schlein 3 3 0 0 = 6+1 Martin Smolinski 2* 1 2 3 3 = 11+1 Chris Harris 3 3 2 2 1* 1* = 12+2 Billy Janniro 1* 2* 2* 1* 2* = 8+5 Steve Johnston 3 2* 2* 1* 2 = 10+3