Rampant Dudley recovered from a shaky start to put one hand on the Knockout Cup with a stunning win over the Isle of Wight Islanders at Monmore last night.
Heathens paraded their National League championship trophy with the Mayor of Dudley, Councillor Alan Finch, before the meeting in front of their biggest crowd of the season. But the party atmosphere was soon subdued when visiting guest Steve Worrall won the opening race with ease – and Heathens gifted Islanders reserves Chris Widman and Reece Downes a 5-0 in the next. But the former Cradley club soon hit their stride, with four 5-1s in the next five races to put them in the driving seat.
That gave Isle of Wight the chance to hit back through the use of tactical rides – but Lewis Blackbird and Dan Greenwood combined in fine style to snuff out former Heathens favourite Tom Perry in his attempt for double points.
Paul Starke then battled past Steve Worrall to nullify their second tactical ride and keep the home side in control, before Blackbird and he struck another maximum in heat 13.
The penultimate race of the night saw reserve Gareth Isherwood edge past Islanders guest Lee Payne to snatch victory on the line to put them 25 clear.
It was finally up to skipper Ashley Morris to cap off another wonderful evening with victory in heat 15 to preserve their healthy lead whilst also completing his paid maximum.
Paul Starke, Lewis Blackbird and Dan Greenwood all suffered just one defeat apiece in the main body to create a strong spearhead for the hosts with Nathan Greaves, Max Clegg and Gareth Isherwood completing a superb all-around performance.
The side are back in action tonight in the second leg on the Isle of Wight, with a handy lead leaving them well-set to add the KO Cup to their collection.
Victory will see them complete an unprecedented clean sweep at National League level to complete an historic season for the reformed club.
Dudley 58: Ashley Morris 14+1, Paul Starke 11+1, Lewis Blackbird 10+1, Dan Greenwood 9+2, Nathan Greaves 5+2, Max Clegg 5, Gareth Isherwood 4
Isle of Wight 33: Steve Worrall 10, Tom Perry 8+1, Lee Payne 5+2, Ben Hopwood 4, Chris Widman 4, Reece Downes 2+1, Brendan Johnson R/R.