Sheffield Tigers eased into the Knockout Cup quarter-finals with a 50-40 win at depleted Redcar last night.
Charles Wright starred against his old club as Tigers overcame an early scare when they went eight points down on the night after three races to progress by a 26-point aggregate margin.
Tougher tests lie ahead for the Owlerton side, and that will certainly prove to be the case in a last-eight showdown with local rivals Scunthorpe which has now been inked in as a result of this success.
But at least they are regaining the winning habit with a run of three victories in succession after the problems of early May.
Those problems, though, were nothing compared to the ones faced by their opponents this week, and if things weren’t bad enough for the Bears, the Heat 13 smash which curtailed Thursday’s first leg left No.1 Ben Barker on the sidelines with a fractured collarbone.
Barker was replaced by Michael Palm Toft, who hit double figures, but the home side still had to use a National League rider to replace unwell recent signing Thomas Jorgensen – a regulation which hardly benefits supporters.
Even so, two 4-2s and then a 5-1 from Jonas B Andersen and Matej Kus in Heat 3 put Sheffield on the back foot, before Wright’s first win steadied the ship.
Skipper Kyle Howarth recovered from a first-race blank to team up with Todd Kurtz for a 5-1 in Heat 5, and a Heat 7 4-2 headed up by Lasse Bjerre restored parity on the night.
Tigers’ progression was all-but ensured when Bjerre and Jan Graversen raced clear of Palm Toft in Heat 10, and Howarth’s win in the next made it mathematically certain.
Then it was a matter of winning the second leg, and although Palm Toft’s late pass prevented a 5-1 from Wright and Howarth in Heat 13, Bjerre and James Shanes did complete the job in the penultimate race.
Palm Toft spoiled Wright’s maximum in Heat 15, whilst Tigers’ nomination of Graversen for that race may be a sign that they plan further changes following the completion of his 28-day deal.
REDCAR 40: Jordan Stewart 11+1, Michael Palm Toft 11, Jonas B Andersen 11, Nathan Greaves 5+3, Matej Kus 2+1, Rob Shuttleworth 0, Tobias Busch r/r.
SHEFFIELD 50: Charles Wright 14, Lasse Bjerre 10, Todd Kurtz 7+1, Kyle Howarth 7, Jan Graversen 6+1, James Shanes 5+1, Jack Smith 1.