BRAVE Tigers suffered an opening night defeat at the hands of Elite League giants Belle Vue in front of a bumper Owlerton crowd.
Eric Boocock’s men gave their cross-Pennines friends a good workout, and things could have been even closer but for Ricky Ashworth and winter recruit Emiliano Sanchez both having to withdraw from the meeting after suffering heavy falls.
However, neither rider went to hospital, although they are both major doubts for tonight’s trip to Scunthorpe.
Just four points separated the two teams after 10 races and that slim advantage was only as a result of some unfortunate circumstances in heat 5.
Sanchez was forced to pull-out after clashing with team-mate Ashworth and then the Tigers skipper suffered his own misfortune in the re-run. His bike packed up whilst holding second on the third lap behind GP star Chris Harris, allowing Charlie Gjedde through for a gifted 5-1.
Rory Schlein then won a shared race 6 for the Aces, followed by Josh Auty and Hugh Skidmore repeating the feat for the Tigers in heats 7 and 8.
Ashworth hit the deck again in heat 9 and that was his night over, but the points were shared in the re-start when the reserve duo of Simon Lambert and Ashley Birks followed home Schlein.
Auty and Ashley Birks then got the jump on the previously unbeaten Harris in heat 11 and although he found a way past Birks, the GB International fell on the final lap when challenging Auty. This left the scores level at 33-33.
Belle Vue got their noses back in front with a maximum in race 12 which was followed by the race of the night in heat 13. Schlein was a comfortable winner, but all the drama happened behind him as Harris and Auty battled for second place. Harris finally got the upper hand and the resulting 5-1 put the Aces 43-35 ahead.
Another Belle Vue five-pointer followed in heat 14 to end Sheffield’s hopes of a comeback.
SHEFFIELD: Josh Auty 11, Ashley Birks 8+2, Hugh Skidmore 8+1, Shane Parker 4+2, Simon Lambert 3+1, Ricky Ashworth 2, Emiliano Sanchez 1+1.
BELLE VUE: Patrick 12+2, Chris Harris 11+1, Rory Schlien 11, Craig Cook 7+1, Charlie Gjedde 5+1, Ricky Kling 4+1, Tomasz Piszcz 3+2.