Wightlink Warriors are firmly in contention for the Silver Ski Holidays Fours Championship crown with one round remaining, writes Andy Hague.
The Smallbrook Stadium outfit will travel to Sittingbourne on Monday, August 5 after impressive second places in the first two legs of the four-team, four-rider competition.
Kent Kings won the opener in Ryde on Thursday before Plymouth Gladiators dominated on home shale in Devon on Friday.
The Warriors recorded 57 points across the two meetings.
Plymouth have 64, Kent have 48 and Breem Construction Stars are bringing up the rear with only 22.
The Kings produced a solid display to draw first blood at the Smallbrook Stadium.
Riding on home shale, Warriors captain Ben Morley (12 points) delivered a faultless four-ride maximum and was ably backed up by guest Danyon Hume (10), who replaced Georgie Wood.
A late call-up saw Connor King (two) step in and ride with his characteristic passion and determination, while Danno Verge (six) once again felt the force of the shale and hit the third bend safety fence on his way to a credible points tally.
Former Warriors rider Ben Wilson was in top form for Plymouth but the Gladiators lacked the strength in depth to challenge the frontrunners.
With former British international Paul Hurry making a rare appearance on the shale and top National League performer Luke Bowen returning from injury, the Stars side had much potential.
But they struggled to maintain track position on occasions and were hampered with engine failures and falls.
So it was Kent whose consistent scoring with hard, sensible racing earned top spot and three-point lead over the Warriors.
Warriors co-promoter Barry Bishop said: ‘What an excellent night of family entertainment.
‘There was super action on track and fans were delighted with their team’s performance.
‘Ben was incredible and Danyon showed just what he is capable of, which no doubt was a delight to the Oxford fans.
‘All in all it was a great performance.’
The following night another spirited display saw them finish second in Plymouth.
It was the Gladiators, though, who put their home knowledge to good use as they powered to a dominant victory.
Led by David Wallinger and Richard Andrews, who both finished the meeting unbeaten, and with Ben Wilson shrugging off a late crash the previous night, they only dropped four points in total.
Morley once again led by example for the Warriors – with two wins and two second places for 10 points.
Great Britain youth rider Jordan Palin (six) impressed in place of Wood, while Verge (five) and King (six) battled hard.
Stars rider Bowen and Kings’ Dan Gilkes crashed in heat three – and took no further part in the meeting.
After a short delay and extensive work on the track, referee Wayne Jarvis consulted the remaining riders and staff and agreed to continue racing.
Meanwhile, the withdrawal of Jack Thomas before he had even arrived at the tapes for his first ride hampered Kent’s charge.
Warriors team manager Kevin Shepherd said: ‘The guys really did put up a great performance, showing maturity beyond their years in difficult conditions.
‘They were determined not only to complete the meeting but give it their all on track.
‘The Warriors fans can be very proud of the boys, as I am.’