SWINDON Robins had Troy Batchelor and Simon Gustafsson to thank as they crept home 46-43 against rivals Poole in front of the biggest Blunsdon crowd of the season last night.
After clawing back Pirates’ early lead, in what proved a tight meeting throughout, Batchelor’s 12-point haul and the 11 Gustafsson chipped in proved vital as number one Peter Kildemand (5+1) and Nick Morris (3+1) suffered difficult evenings.
Darcy Ward and Maciej Janowski led the way for Poole with a combined 20 points, but with the remaining three members of the Pirates’ top five only managing 13 between them, the Robins had the win secured by the end of heat 14 thanks also to valuable contributions from Dakota North (7+1) and reserve Steve Worrall with 8+2.
One worry for Robins boss Alun Rossiter was teenage reserve Nathan Greaves, who failed to finish any of this three outings, but the victory over his former club and the form of Batchelor and Gustafsson was enough to send the GB boss home happy.
“We had to dig deep and again the skipper rode a real captain’s role and he was great for us,” he said.
“Pete’s (Kildemand) really off colour at the moment and I don’t know what’s up with him, but Troy and Simon were great. I’m pleased for Simon because he went really well, although he was a little miffed he had to go off gate three in the last heat but we had to do what was right and put Troy off gate one.
“Poole always go really well here so to get a win like that is good and it’s a real confidence booster for us going forward.
“Nathan was a worry but we will stick with him and help him as much as we can.”
Captain Batchelor’s attention now turns towards tomorrow’s British GP in Cardiff, and the Aussie is pleased to be going into round seven on the back of a good win over the Pirates.
“We knew it would be tough and they have guys in their team who can really pedal on their day, but we got the win we needed,” he said.
“In our last meeting (against King’s Lynn) we started bad and finished strong like we did tonight, although it’s been the other way for most of the season, but we’re getting things right.
“Poole were tough and rode good so we have to be happy to get the win.”
After both Robins missed the start of heat one, Kildemand cut back well in the first corner to pass Josh Grajczonek and also allow North through, before not quite being able to catch Ward who went on to take the flag.
The first blow went the way of the Pirates in a disastrous heat two for the Robins, with first Greaves falling off alone before Worrall packed up, meaning the visitors took a 5-0.
It looked as if the Robins were going to take a sizeable chunk out of the lead as Batchelor and Morris both made good passes in heat three, before the latter pushed too hard and took out Janowski as the race was awarded as a 3-3.
Greaves hit the deck again in his second outing and retired, with Gustafsson unable to pass winner Grajczonek as the visitors extended their lead by a further two.
Whatever Rossiter said to his team during the first grading break certainly worked as Kildemand worked his way from the back to second to back up Batchelor for a 5-1 in heat five, before Gustafsson produced a stunning move to beat Janowski using every inch of the Abbey Stadium track.
Swindon took the lead for the first time thanks to North and Worrall’s maximum from the gate in heat seven, before Gustafsson produced another polished ride to win heat eight, with Morris eventually finding a way past Przemyslaw Pawlicki to secure a heat advantage.
After an aborted start Worrall claimed the second reserve race, with Greaves again retiring, before Poole came back to within a point just before the interval with a maximum from the Polish pairing of Pawlicki and Janowski.
The home lead stayed at one despite Ward winning heat 11 by a straight ahead of the Robins pairing of Batchelor and Morris, but things swung significantly in the home side’s favour in heat 12 as North was followed home by reserve replacement Worrall for a well-deserved maximum.
The red lights were slammed on as Kildemand and Janowski hit the deck in turn one of heat 13, with both returning for the re-run, which looked to be going Batchelor’s way before Ward produced a stunning move in the final corner to keep the contest interesting.
Gustafsson’s heat 14 win, backed up by Worrall in third, left the Robins needing a heat advantage to take all the points going into the last race, but the Swede was left trailing out the back as Ward produced another stunning move on Batchelor to ensure the Pirates went home with at least a little treasure.