THIS was a classic local derby with incidents, drama, controversy and great racing from start to finish - and, most important of all, a Buildbase Bees win.
Injury-hit Wolves put up quite a fight and caused Coventry some nervous moments in the second half of the meeting, but the Bees just managed to keep their hosts at arm's length en route to a 14th successive win in all competitions.
Skipper Scott Nicholls steered them through the closing stages, and in another solid team effort there was a key contribution from former Wolves rider Steve Johnston, who clearly took great delight in his paid-12 score on his old home circuit.
There was overtaking galore throughout the meeting, starting in the very first race when Nicholls and Billy Janniro made the start only for Peter Karlsson to produce his trademark cut-back and go from fourth to first in one move. Janniro and David Howe then traded places for third before the Wolves man took the advantage to allow his side to open up with a 4-2.
William Lawson was an impressive winner of the reserves' race as the Bees riders were initially delayed by James Grieves, Janniro moving into second place on the back straight and Johnston into third at the end of the first lap. But the next two heats saw Bees take control with consecutive 5-1s which ensured they always had a lead to defend.
Chris Harris and Martin Smolinski took the honours in Heat 3 from the gate, but Heat 4 was more of a battle with Johnston initially moving Grieves aside on the first lap and Rory Schlein then working hard to follow him through. Schlein had to be fully aware of the presence of Adam Shields behind him, but he worked himself an opportunity exiting turn two of lap four, and took it to go into second spot.
Nicholls fended off Howe's initial inside challenge early in Heat 5 and Bees collected a 4-2 from the race as Smolinski, who had been out of shape on the second bend, still managed to overhaul Magnus Karlsson by turn three to extend the Coventry lead to eight points.
That was halved when Wolves fashioned a response in Heat 6, Karlsson doing it from the gate but Howe producing an excellent ride to first dive under Schlein going into the third bend, and then once again get the better of Janniro later in the race.
Coventry, though, responded well to that setback and remained in the driving seat by taking 4-2s in the next three races. Heat 7 saw a fine battle for second place between Smolinski and Shields, Smolinski taking it with a swift cutback on turn two only for Shields to respond a lap later, whilst Heat 8 was a classic. The race was re-run after Schlein had fallen on the first bend, and at the second time of asking Johnston just managed to squeeze around Grieves as they exited the second bend. The Australian then held the lead throughout but was under constant pressure from Grieves who, in turn, had Schlein and Howe jostling right behind him as the positions somehow remained unchanged.
Schlein was taking no prisoners in Heat 9 as he moved Shields aside to lead, whilst Janniro found himself behind Magnus Karlsson for a lap before making a pass on the outside to give Bees a 32-22 advantage and leave Wolves giving Peter Karlsson a tactical ride in Heat 10.
The first start of the race was unfortunate for Smolinski, as he clearly got a knock going into the first bend yet was excluded by referee Rod Smith. In the re-run, Karlsson and Howe hit the front and briefly looked set for an 8-1 only for Harris to superbly charge around Howe and then inside Karlsson in the space of half a lap - until, next time around, Karlsson made a similar manoevre on Harris to bank six points for his side.
The Coventry lead was down to five points, and it was at this stage that the meeting really caught fire. In Heat 11, Shields had ridden well to defend the lead from Nicholls, with Johnston under pressure from Lawson for third. Going into the last lap, Lawson made his move but collected Johnston, who fell - and to Coventry's initial consternation, there were no red lights until the leaders were on the fourth bend. Bees were relieved when Lawson was excluded and then amazed to be given a second chance at the race as the referee ordered a re-run! And, in the way that these things tend to go, although Shields again made a better start, Nicholls was in no mood to follow him again and promptly moved through on the inside to take the lead.
More drama was just around the corner, with Peter Karlsson taking the rider replacement ride in Heat 12 and making the start, but then he went wide exiting turn two and the other riders charged for the gap on the inside. As Harris approached turn three in close proximity to the other riders, Grieves, on his inside, found himself in a tight spot and had to bale heavily into the fence. After an inordinate delay, Bees were furious when the green exclusion light shone for Harris, whilst Grieves could take no further part in the meeting due to heavy bruising.
Karlsson was headed for two laps by Janniro in the re-run before he once again made his way to the front, but the Swede was finally beaten in Heat 13 as Nicholls settled Coventry's nerves with a superb clamping manoevre around the first bends - and Karlsson, virtually unable to turn, dropped to the back and it was all he could do to round Schlein on lap three for third place.
The shared heat kept Bees five points up and, more than that, looking at a Heat 14 which always appeared to be in their favour. That was how things turned out as Johnston and Smolinski rode their way home to a 5-1 to secure the match, Lawson and Magnus Karlsson having no answer to them and Johnston delighted to be able to start the celebrations.
Nicholls once again took the honours in Heat 15 with a rocket-ship start from gate 2 whilst Harris was again frustrated by Peter Karlsson, who he managed to overtake for third place after a lap but was then re-passed by the canny Wolves skipper.
But Karlsson's great efforts of paid 19 were not enough to see his side snatch a win as Coventry's greater strength in depth saw them through. With Swindon and Peterborough also winning, little has changed - but there is one less match to go, the winning run has been maintained, and one more away win, wherever that may come, may well be enough to virtually sew up that top two finish.
WOLVERHAMPTON 42 COVENTRY 51 Monday 3rd September 2007 - Sky Sports Elite League B
PARRYS INTERN'L WOLVES Peter Karlsson 3 3 6^ 3 1* 1* = 17+2 David Howe 1 2 2* 0 1 = 6+1 Fredrik Lindgren r/r Magnus Karlsson 0 0 0 0 = 0 Adam Shields 0 2 2 2 2 2 = 10 William Lawson 3 1 0 X 1 1 = 6 James Grieves 0 1 2 N = 3
BUILDBASE BEES Scott Nicholls 2 3 3 3 3 = 14 Olly Allen r/r Chris Harris 3 3 2 X 0 = 8 Martin Smolinski 2* 1 1 X 2* = 6+2 Rory Schlein 2* 0 1 3 0 = 6+1 Billy Janniro 0 2 1 1 2 = 6 Steve Johnston 1* 3 3 1 3 = 11+1