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Veteran instinct

Skornicki and Bridger may prove key on Monday night, says Kelvin

Kelvin Tatum Posted 20th April 2012 view comments

Belle Vue have had a disappointing start to the season which has included a lot of rain-offs, such as the drama of their Good Friday meeting with Wolves, which was abandoned after just three heats.

The Aces squad doesn't seem as strong as some of the other Elite League teams, such as Coventy and Swindon, who we saw face off on Sky Sports last Monday, and they may need to strengthen their hand in the coming weeks.

Skornicki: has inked a short-term deal with the Aces

Skornicki: has inked a short-term deal with the Aces

Belle Vue riders Adam Shields and Rory Schlein have made inauspicious starts to the campaign, which hasn't helped their side's cause.

Shields had bad injuries last year and has moved north from the Lakeside Hammers, so it could take him a bit of time to settle down, but I'm surprised Schlein hasn't come out firing.

He had an absolutely fabulous season last term while on loan from Coventry and the Aces have now snapped him up permanently as their number-one rider.

Bridger has a lot of talent, but this is the season where he has to establish himself as a number-one rider.

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Chris Harris was the team leader last season and Schlein wasn't under the spotlight so much, so perhaps the Aussie is still coming to terms with the pressure thrust upon him.

Belle Vue have also drafted in Adam Skornicki to cover for Travis McGowan, who is having work-permit issues, and the injured Patrick Hougaard. The Pole has had success in the Elite League before and is an ideal replacement.

Skornicki has only penned a short-term deal but he is hoping for a longer contract, and if he rides well he will make it difficult for the team not to offer him one.

It is an opportunity out of nowhere, but the 35-year-old is vastly experienced and could do a good job.

Upgraded

Eastbourne, meanwhile, are still searching for form, both at home and on the road.

The Eagles lost their number-one rider Bjarne Pedersen to Birmingham during the off-season and instead of signing a new leader, they basically upgraded everybody else.

Joonas Kylmäkorpi has taken Pedersen's mantle and the Eagles were hoping he would develop into an out-and-out number one, but he got injured early on and their campaign hasn't really taken off.

They are not the team that got to the Elite League final last year and, for me, are one heat rider short of being a top-four-club.

Simon Gustafsson should figure at Belle Vue after recovering from injuries he sustained during a crash in practice in Poland, but when a rider takes a bang it is difficult to know how he will fare in his first meets back.

That, as well as the absence of Kylmäkorpi, means there will be sharper focus on Lewis Bridger and he will have to perform well. The Hastings man is only 22, but has been around a long while now and should be looked upon as a senior man.

Bridger has a lot of talent but this is the season where he has to stamp his authority and establish himself as a genuine number-one rider. Whether he can apply himself and do that, only time will tell.

Home advantage is always crucial in speedway. Riders go to their track every week and are given the opportunity to discover every nuance of the circuit and get their bike dialed in to the conditions.

The away side, meanwhile, are forced to work out the track, and the different demands it will present, from their eyes alone and that is not always easy.

The best teams can do it but with Eastbourne a little off the boil at the moment, I think Belle Vue will come out on top - provided the wet weather doesn't scupper proceedings.

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