GIVEN that one team was predicted to finish in the Elite League play-off’s and the other to finish in the lower echelons of the Premier League, it’s no surprise that Sheffield were easily beaten by Birmingham at Owlerton last night.
The Tigers wanted a real test on their opening night before they open their competitive campaign at Leicester on Saturday and they got just that as a powerful Brummies team showed their sharpness to run out easy winners.
The Elite League men had already ridden this season and it showed as they were dominant throughout, the Hillsborough side were left standing at the gate time after time and it wasn’t until Simon Stead’s heat 13 victory that a Sheffield rider took the cheqeured flag first.
There were positives for Sheffield though, in particular the performance of young Argentinian Facundo Albin. The 20-year-old had impressed club bosses in last week’s pre-season practice and he soon won the Owlerton faithful over with some spectacular passes, in particular a marvelous ride in heat eight. He initially signed for Berwick last season but was left out in the cold by the Borders club and Sheffield quickly snapped him up, which looks like one of the shrewdest moves of the winter.
Simon Stead’s return to the club after 11 years away was marred by an early mechanical failure but he showed that he still knows the fastest way round Owlerton, while Richard Hall and Ricky Wells were more than a match for the Elite League boys.
The Sheffield lower order struggled but will take time to adapt to the rigours of Premier League racing, and Saturday’s League Cup clash at Leicester will give them a more accurate test.
n Scorers: Tigers - Stead 10, Albin 5, Wells 5, Hall 4, Koppe 2, Haines 2, Knight 1.
n Birmingham: Smolinski 15, Doyle 11+1, King 11+1, Barker 9, Auty 7+1, Covatti 5+1, Ashworth 2.