Belle Vue and Poole in command in Elite League play-off semi-finals
Last Updated: 25/09/16 2:02pm
Belle Vue seized control of their Elite League play-off semi-final with a 49-41 win in Wednesday's first leg at Lakeside.
Aces skipper Scott Nicholls scored a paid maximum from five rides with reserve Richie Worrall contributing a vital 15+2, while Craig Cook won his last three outings as the visitors finished the meeting with three successive 5-1s.
Lewis Kerr top-scored for the Hammers with 9+1 but promoter Jon Cook admits they now face the biggest of uphill tasks in Manchester on Monday.
Cook said: "Those last three heats killed us off. After going from four up to eight down like that, it would take a foolish person to back us to recover.
"Before that, the teams were pretty evenly matched and we felt we had a slight edge.
"I think the wobbles were more to do with the track than any nerves. There was tension, of course, but you would expect that to be the case for both teams and our boys were in good spirits.
"It will be difficult to come back but speedway is a funny game. You would think Belle Vue might be quite relaxed and we need to be ready to take advantage if that happens."
Belle Vue manager Mark Lemon said: "It was important to keep things as tight as possible. Some of the boys were struggling but that's part of the charm of these Belle Vue Aces. They unite and push on.
"As far as this meeting was concerned, it's job done. We knew that no matter who we chose in the semi-finals it was going to be tough and early doors the Hammers gave us plenty to think about.
"But in classic style, the boys rallied to the cause and really knuckled down. We'd have been happy with just a four-point lead going into the home leg so to have extended that to eight is tremendous."
Meanwhile, Poole No 1 Chris Holder scored a paid maximum as the reigning Elite League Champions raced to a 51-39 first leg win in their semi-final against Wolverhampton.
The Pirates opened the meeting with two successive 5-1s but Wolves rallied to remain in contention ahead of Monday's return at Monmore Green.
Holder was well backed by reserve Kyle Newman with 12+2 for the home side, while Jacob Thorssell was the top scorer for Wolves on eight as both Fredrik Lindgren and Tai Woffinden experienced mixed nights.
Wolves boss Peter Adams said: "It's obviously not the result we were looking for, but you have to remember that Wimborne Road is a difficult place to go to.
"This tie is far from over and we'll be looking to make the most of our own home track advantage on Monday and we've got riders who are capable of scoring very heavily at Monmore.
"We had a talk as a team at the end of the meeting and you can see just how much they want to make the final.
"They're certainly not ready for their seasons to be over just yet - they're well up for the second leg and there's no reason why we can't reverse that scoreline on Monday."