COVENTRY were beaten 53-39 at Wolverhampton on Monday in their first Challenge match against SGB Premiership opposition.
With a big travelling contingent of fans in support at Monmore, the Bees remained in contention for much of the meeting but the home side’s powerful top five controlled proceedings and they always looked likely winners.
Two 5-1s in the last three races extended the margin of victory, as Coventry were restricted to five race wins on the night.
Two of those came from Dane Lasse Bjerre, riding through the pain barrier after a heavy crash at Somerset on Friday, and after heading home Sam Masters in Heat 7 Bjerre ended the maximum hopes of Jacob Thorssell with a fine victory in Heat 14.
Thorssell and fellow Swede Fredrik Lindgren were largely dominant, although Lindgren was beaten in Heat 6 by a terrific first-lap effort by Rory Schlein to hit the front.
Bees did outscore the home side at reserve, with former Storm rider Stefan Nielsen taking a late call-up to guest for the injured Josh Bates and showing exactly why it is a travesty that he has no team place in the UK at present.
Nielsen kicked off by blasting around Max Clegg and Nathan Greaves to win Heat 2 in fine style, and he was constantly involved in the action thereafter on his way to a paid-nine score, including a fine battle in Heat 8 when he led Kyle Howarth until just lifting on the exit of turn four to allow the Wolves man to make his move.
Nielsen, a former double British Under-19 Champion, was also firm and decisive in passing Max Clegg for third place in Heat 14, and having earned a call-up for Heat 15 he remained hot on the heels of a battle between Lindgren and Schlein before slowing with a lap to go – and hopefully his performance will have put him firmly in the shop window for other clubs.
Amongst the other Coventry ‘regulars’ skipper Danny King endured a tough night, conceding 5-1s in Heats 1 and 5 before recovering to post a win over Masters in Heat 11.
But he was edged out in the race of the night, which was Heat 13 and saw King storm round Masters into second place leaving the home rider apparently battling with Schlein – until Masters somehow found drive on the inside to snatch second back from King on the line.
Jason Garrity, meanwhile, was in the thick of the action throughout after starting his night with a penalty for breaking the tapes in Heat 3, and on more than one occasion he was the victim of some tough treatment on the first turn.
Garrity just missed out to Howarth in a competitive Heat 10 as Wolves recorded their third 5-1 of the match, whilst he had to be content with four points behind race winner Adam Skornicki when Bees operated the tactical ride in Heat 12.
James Sarjeant lost out to Clegg for second place in Heat 2 but had the measure of the Wolves reserves thereafter, with Bees operating rider-replacement for Lewis Kerr who was a late withdrawal from the meeting.
King said: “It was a tough meeting and I struggled a bit myself, I couldn’t seem to make any clean starts early on.
“It’s a shame I didn’t score as many points as I’d have liked to, but that’s speedway sometimes.
“It was nice to get back on track and put the Bee on my chest again, and it was good to see so many fans there.
“It’s nice that they’re getting the chance to watch some speedway again, because they’ve lost it more so than anyone else, so it will be good to do a few more of these meetings.”
Our thanks once again to Chris Van Straaten and all at Wolverhampton Speedway for everything they did to ensure this meeting was staged.
CHALLENGE WOLVERHAMPTON 53: Freddie Lindgren 13+1, Jacob Thorssell 13+1, Sam Masters 9+1, Kyle Howarth 8+3, Adam Skornicki 8, Max Clegg 2, Nathan Greaves 0. COVENTRY 39: Stefan Nielsen 8+1, Lasse Bjerre 8, Rory Schlein 8, Danny King 6, Jason Garrity 6, James Sarjeant 3+2, Lewis Kerr R/R.