SWINDON Robins team manager Alun Rossiter refused to point the finger of blame at the Abbey Stadium track after his team’s hopes of SGB Premiership glory were hit by a home defeat in the first leg of the Grand Final against Wolverhampton Wolves this evening.

Passing opportunities were extremely limited on a Blunsdon surface usually known for producing quality racing, with instead the majority of heats settled in the initial flurry out of the gates.

That clearly caught the Robins unawares and a shocking start to the meeting saw them fall 12 points in arrears after only seven heats, although they were able to cut that to four before the meeting came to a close.

Jason Doyle was the only Swindon rider to breach double figures as he claimed three wins from five rides for 11 points, while three of the six-strong Wolves side posted 10 points or better.

Rossiter admitted an aspect of home advantage was surrendered due to the unfamiliar racing conditions, although the Robins team manager conceded his troops were beaten by the better side.

“I don’t want to say anything because it just looks sour grapes, it is the same for both teams,” said Rossiter, who must now galvanise his troops for Wednesday night’s second leg at Monmore Green.

“We have got a team of racers but I am not going to take the shine off it for the other side, they adapted better to it than we did.

“We all had fire in our bellies but it is our home track and you would like to think we would have a little bit of home advantage but if you didn’t make the start, it was very difficult to come from the back. There wasn’t really much passing.

“I don’t want to put emphasis on it as it sounds like you are a sore loser and it is the same for both teams.”

Swindon had actually started the night in winning fashion as Doyle roared off the line in the opener, although the Wolves pair of Chris Harris and Kyle Howarth were able to take a share of the points.

A gutsy ride from Liam Carr saw the home side edge ahead in heat two as although Mark Riss had the line coming out of bend four on lap one, the Robins’ guest reserve darted up the inside to force his way through, while Bradley Wilson-Dean took a solid third.

Wolves hit back with a heat advantage of their own in the next as Rory Schlein took a comfortable win, although all the action was behind as Tobiasz Musielak and Howarth traded blows for second, with the Swindon man eventually snatching it.

A fall and exclusion for Nick Morris handed the visitors the initiative in the fourth race and the task of going it alone was a tough one for Carr as Sam Masters and Nathan Greaves stormed clear to deliver the first maximum win of the night.

Swindon hit back when David Bellego won heat five but with Musielak chasing Harris hard for second, his bike suddenly packed up and an unexpected shared heat saw Wolves lead 17-13 overall.

The hosts then found themselves in a big hole as wonderful starts from the Wolverhampton riders saw them take back-to-back maximum wins. First, Riss led home Masters before Harris did likewise from Schlein.

Swindon were able to stop the rot somewhat with a share of the points in the eighth race as Bradley Wilson-Dean and Adam Ellis took the minor places behind winner Howarth.

It was the same outcome in the next as Masters outmuscled Musielak in the charge to the first bend to take an untroubled win for the visitors, with Bellego back in third.

Doyle stopped Wolves’ winning run with victory in heat 10, although he did not have it all his own way and had to get the better of a fierce battle with Masters, with Ellis’ third place cutting Swindon’s overall deficit to 35-25.

Morris was able to make it back-to-back successes for the hosts in the next contest but Wolves were able to share the points, while the Robins could not capitalise on a fall for Riss in heat 12 as Schlein took top spot while riding solo ahead of Musielak and Wilson-Dean.

It took 13 heats for Swindon to finally deliver a maximum as Doyle and Morris gave some hope for their side and that was backed up by Bellego winning the next race, although Wolves were able to share the points to ensure they would hold the lead heading into the second leg.

That gap was trimmed to four points thanks to the brilliant of Morris as he nailed the start to win the finale, with Doyle taking third behind Masters to give Swindon a heat advantage and a small glimmer of hope heading into the second leg.


SWINDON: Jason Doyle 11 (3-1-3-3-1), Adam Ellis 2+1 (0-0-1’-1), Tobiasz Musielak 6 (2-R-2-2), David Bellego 7+1 (0-3-1’-3), Nick Morris 9+1 (FX-1-3-2’-3), Bradley Wilson-Dean 4+1 (1-0-2-1’-0), Liam Carr (G) 4 (3-1-0).

WOLVERHAMPTON: Chris Harris (G) 10 (2-2-3-2-1), Kyle Howarth 7+3 (1’-1-1’-3-1’), Rory Schlein 10+1 (3-2’-0-3-2-R), Jacob Thorssell R/R, Sam Masters 12+1 (3-2’-3-2-0-2), Mark Riss 5 (2-3-0-FX), Nathan Greaves 3+2 (0-2’-0-1’).