National League Speedway Knock Out Cup 1st Round 1st Leg
Central Park, Sittingbourne
Attendance: 1000 (estimate)
Match Rating: 3
With no football matches sufficiently tempting today, I decided instead to visit a speedway race instead. It promised to be an interesting day out, to visit a venue that used to host football matches, but was one I never visited for football.
Central Park is situated to the north of Sittingbourne, in the middle of a large industrial estate. The entrance gates to the sports complex still adorn the words "Sittingbourne F.C.", even though the football club vacated Central Park in 2002, and then Bourne Park, their subsequent and much more modest home built next door, which they also vacated in 2013 for their even more modest current home the other side of town at Woodstock Park. These days, Central Park is used for greyhound racing as well as speedway, and it is a mighty impressive stadium that is virtually unchanged from when it hosted football. Spectators enter via turnstiles in the main stand, then passing by a bar and a cafe before entering the main stand. This offers excellent unobstructed and elevated views of the action. A further bar as well as corporate boxes are positioned above the seating along the top of the stand. Along the opposite length is a terrace with the framework of a stand which has lost its roofing. Behind both goals there are fairly small curved uncovered terrace around the bends. Around the rest of the track there is grass banking, with a path running around the top and bottom. The pits area is located behind one corner, and is not as accessible as other tracks I have been to. The programme was basic, 16 pages in all colour, but provided the basics.
After a fairly average 2015, Kent Kings have had a terrific start to 2016, having won all five of their fixtures so far, although only one of those fixtures was in the league. In their first season since being relaunched following a two year sabbatical, Isle of Wight have lost all three of their fixtures so far, although they have yet to start their league campaign.
On a sunny but windy afternoon, the first heat was a classic false dawn for the meeting, with Isle of Wight securing a 5-1 advantage, after the heat was awarded following a fall on the last lap - this was a pattern that would run through the meeting, which was a stop-start affair thanks to crashes. Kent Kings won the second heat 5-1 after two re-runs, and from there they never looked back. The two teams then swapped 4-2 heat wins to leave the overall scores tied after four heats. The fourth heat was to be the last that Isle of Wight would win though, as Kent Kings pulled away, securing 5-1 wins in heats six, eight and ten to open up a clear 16 point advantage after 10 heats.
It would be a case of damage limitation for Isle of Wight for the remainder of today's meeting, in order to keep the match alive for when they host the second leg next month. They didn't really manage that, as Kent finished the meeting with a 5-1 victory in the final heat, to secure a 24 point first leg advantage. It will take a monumental effort from the Isle of Wight to have any hope of progressing to the next round.
Luke Bowen (11) and Danny Ayres (13) were the stand out performers for Kent Kings this afternoon, whilst Isle of Wight's top scorer, James Cockle, was just the fourth top points scorer overall this afternoon with 8