Sheffield face a tough task to keep their Knockout Cup dream alive despite a hard-fought 46-44 victory over Edinburgh in the first leg of their clash at Owlerton last night.
The gutsy Tigers put in another determined display but conceded a 5-1 in heat 15 which could prove costly as they travel to Armdale for the second leg tonight.
They battled hard to earn victory, but they will face a stern test around the tricky Monarchs’ circuit as they aim to dump out the defending Cup holders.
Sheffield boss Jack Lee entered their first leg last night targeting at least a double figure lead – and despite a well-deserved win on the night they failed to meet that objective.
Local lad Ashley Birks enjoyed a welcome return to form after a tough spell, battling to a double figure points haul with a classy display.
He raced clear in the opening race to give his side an early advantage before his fast-starting resulted in further wins in heats five and 12 to preserve their lead.
Stand-in skipper Andre Compton continued his superb run in the tough No.5 position, once again notching double figures as he continues to be an ever-reliable source of points.
The terrace hero brilliantly team rode home alongside Arthur Sissis in heat eight to shut out the fast-charging Erik Riss and move Sheffield eight clear.
However, his night came to an unfortunate conclusion as he tangled with partner Birks in heat 15 and was excluded as the Tigers’ conceded a disastrous maximum to cut their advantage to just two at the death.
Fortunately for Sheffield, Compton was able to walk away following treatment and should be fit for the second leg this evening.
With guesting No.1 Lasse Bjerre struggling in place of the injured Simon Stead, the performances of Compton and Birks were hugely important to give the hosts the firepower needed to claim victory.
They did receive excellent support from the lower order as talented youngsters Sissis and Josh Bates both impressed at reserve.
They hit the front to deliver a 5-1 in heat two as their side made a tremendous start before both ended with vital contributions courtesy of typically determined displays.
Aussie ace Sissis demonstrated skill beyond his level of experience as he masterfully partnered Comtpon in heat eight on his way to a classy paid nine.
Meanwhile, former British Under 21 Champion Bates pulled off two good rides late on to help protect his sides’ slender lead.
All-action middle order man Jason Garrity – who was handed a wildcard for the British Final earlier in the day – celebrated by claiming a composed race win in his opening ride.
However, having been excluded for touching the tapes in his next outing he was forced to regroup as he ended with a solid albeit unspectacular paid seven.
SHEFFIELD 46: Ashley Birks 12, Andre Compton 12, Arthur Sissis 6+4, Jason Garrity 6+1, Josh Bates 5+2, Lasse Bjerre 5, Ty Proctor r/r EDINBURGH 44: Craig Cook 14, Kevin Wolbert 11+2, Sam Masters 8+1, Justin Sedgmen 6+1, Erik Riss 2+1, Rob Brandford 2, Max Clegg 1