IF ever there was a meeting which brought back memories of Coventry's 2005 title success, it was this one as the Buildbase Bees pulled off a quite superb victory at Wimborne Road to break the Elite League record for consecutive wins.
Skipper Scott Nicholls was part of the Ipswich side which carded 13 straight wins back in 1998, and it was Nicholls who won the last-heat decider which took Coventry up to 14 on the bounce - and within touching distance of that confirmed top two finish, and home advantage in the play-off semi-finals.
Poole had threatened to snatch a draw with a shock 8-1 in Heat 14 to bring them right back into contention after Coventry had dominated, but Nicholls and Chris Harris were the men to see Bees home to a deserved win, and one which was sportingly applauded by the main grandstand at Wimborne Road.
Yet it had started in less than auspicious fashion as Nicholls and Billy Janniro were out-trapped by Bjarne Pedersen and Troy Batchelor in Heat 1, the Pirates duo racing away to an almost unchallenged 5-1. However, that race was to prove the exception to the rule as Bees quickly got back into procedings and then put on a display of fully committed riding, once again operating as a team in every sense to stun the home side.
Janniro and Johnston brought things level immediately with maximum points in Heat 2, and Bees went in front for the first time in Heat 3 as Harris pulled off a marvellous first-bend move to move World Champion Jason Crimp aside, and Martin Smolinski took third as Craig Boyce fell on the first bend.
Boyce had lost control on his own, so had no hope of a re-start, but there were certainly calls for a second start to Heat 4 when Johnston clearly took a knock from Edward Kennett. The race went on, however, and Rory Schlein came up with a great ride, first rounding Steve Boxall on turn three and then reeling in Kennett to force him aside going into the last bend.
Crump took Heat 5 as Nicholls and Janniro tucked in for second and third, and there was then a major talking point when Janniro, off gate four in Heat 6, was undoubtedly the victim of first bend bunching as he crashed into the fence. The red lights did not come on, and by the time they did Batchelor had also come to grief on the third and fourth bend. In that respect, referee Christina Turnbull's only option was to exclude both Janniro and Batchelor (for not being under power) but the much more obvious call would have been an all-four re-start when Janniro was taken down.
The supporters were therefore treated to a match race, which Pedersen took from Schlein with a fast start, but Bees then began to stretch things. First in Heat 7, Harris found terrific speed around the outside to pass Kennett on turn two of lap four for a 4-2, and then in Heat 8 Schlein managed to re-pass Boxall after a hectic first couple of laps as he tried to settle in with Johnston for a 5-1. That mission was accomplished, and Bees had moved into a 27-20 lead.
Heat 9 provided plenty of passing with Crump switching inside Schlein coming off turn four, and Boyce and Janniro staged a fine battle for third place. Boyce trapped Janniro with an inside move on the second lap, but Janniro roared back around the outside on the fourth lap to maintain Bees' seven point lead.
There was more drama in Heat 10 when Pedersen was shuffled to the back, where he was kept by an inspired Smolinski, whilst at the front Batchelor had to work overtime to cover Harris. Finally, on the last lap, the Australian's resistance was broken as Harris generated speed on the outside and cut back into the last bend to take another terrific win.
The next two heats were shared, Nicholls taking Heat 11 from Kennett as Smolinski fell on turn four but quickly re-mounted, and then Crump inflicted Harris's first defeat of the night in Heat 12, Johnston making sure of third place to keep Bees nine up.
Nicholls, who was more and more impressive as the night went on, then had too much for Pedersen in the final stages of Heat 13 with another excellent pass, although Coventry's policy of racing for every single point almost turned against them with the tactical ride coming into play in the next race. But Nicholls' win in the race was deserved as Pedersen had benefited from a jump-start, which was surprisingly not called back - especially as a previous race had seen the riders recalled.
Despite the black and white helmet colour coming in for Heat 14, a win for Boyce, who had failed to score to that stage, appeared highly unlikely, but he and Doyle both hit the front and pulled clear of Smolinski and Johnston to bring the match back to life at 41-45.
On so many occasions this season, especially at home, Crump and Pedersen have been able to produce the required result in Heat 15, but on his occasion their run ended. From gates 1 and 3, the Pirates both made good starts, but Pedersen went a little too wide on turn two and the Bees shot through the gap. Pedersen initially regained third place, but as he did so Nicholls rounded Crump on turn four - and, as insurance, Harris moved back past Pedersen to spark celebrations in the Coventry pits.
It wasn't a League-winning night - but it was a record-breaking night, and another night which further increases the confidence in the Coventry camp. A fantastic speedway meeting, and a performance from all of the Bees riders of which everyone can feel proud.
POOLE 43 COVENTRY 49 Wednesday 5th September 2007 - Sky Sports Elite League B