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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

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Successful season for Workington Comets speedway team but no silverware

The 2011 season started with great optimism for Workington Comets and although chances of a league title faded before the end it can still be classed as a year of success.

Gary Irving photo
Gary Irving, left

The team that was put together at the start of the season had the mark of potential champions and although it didn’t materialise there was plenty of entertainment along the way.

A fourth-placed finish, semi-finalists in the Knock-Out Cup, runners-up in the Premier League Pairs and third in the Fours was a tremendous effort considering everything that was thrown at the team.

After securing a deal with Workington Town RLFC to run at Derwent Park an impressive line up was put together by owner Keith Denham – all who had ridden for the Derwent Park club some time in their career.

Returning from the 2010 team were Rusty Harrison, Peter Kildemand, Richard Lawson and Kenny Ingalls.

Added to that were the Wright brothers James and Charles as well as King’s Lynn star Tomas Topinka who had scored highly when he had ridden for the Derwent Park club on many occasions as a guest.

However, their plans were thrown into chaos when American star Ingalls failed to recover from his broken leg in time for the start of the season.

The Comets considered many possibilities before drafting in local rider Gary Irving on a short term basis who proved to be one of the finds of the season.

There was plenty of optimism surrounding the team and this was backed up by early season results with the Comets losing only one of their opening 12 matches.

That was against Premier League new boys Ipswich, who had come down from the Elite League, and the 63-27 defeat proved to be the Comets biggest of the season.

Of those 11 victories four were away from home which Denham believed was one of the keys to winning the title while the Comets always looked in control on their own Derwent Park track.

It left the Comets top of the league but from then things always seemed to conspire against the men in blue and white and throughout the remainder of the season there were two words on the lips of every Comets supporter – injuries and rain.

The away match to Rye House on May 30 was the last time the Comets fielded their own seven man team throughout the season.

A run of consecutive weeks went by with rain washing out many home and away meetings and when the Comets did finally get some track time the old jinx of injuries came back to haunt them.

One of the most bizarre one of those occurred to Topinka while riding against Edinburgh.

After completing the parade lap and when on entering the pits he collided with Ingalls mechanic which caused him to suffer concussion and miss the meeting.

The Comets battled on valiantly in that match and with only a five man team only missed out on a losing bonus point in the final heat.

It was after that match that Gary Irving came back into the team in place of the sacked Charles Wright.

The following day again with only half a team they came up against fellow title challengers Somerset and beat them by 12 points with valuable contributions from throughout the team.

It was at this time where the Comets looked like they could be genuine title contenders but a draw away to Leicester and narrow losses away to Redcar and Somerset – all matches the Comets should have won – saw them drop valuable points.

Other teams around them started to pull away as Comets lost ground with another host of postponed matches.

A humiliating 60-33 defeat away to Glasgow saw number one James Wright sacked after failing to score in that match.

However, he returned a week later after Workington were refused permission to sign Polish rider Tomasz Piszcz after problems getting a British licence for him and he put in a match winning performance to help the Comets to a narrow one point victory over Berwick to preserve Workington’s unbeaten home record which earned the respect of the Comets fans.

A reshuffle saw Rusty Harrison take over as number one and Danish rookie Simon Nielsen come into the Comets team on an assessed seven point average.

They then crashed out of the Knock Out in the semi finals to a resurgent Newport side who were eventual winners.

By the time October came around it was clear that using two guests - which included one from the National League to cover for Gary Irving - and rider replacement each match was taking its toll on the Comets and they surrendered their unbeaten home record to Sheffield.

However, the bright spot was the form of Richard Lawson who consistently racked up double figures towards the end of the season looking almost unbeatable around Derwent Park.

However, victories over Edinburgh and a double header against Plymouth in the final two days of the season left the Comets finishing fourth in the league two points off second place.

It left fans wondering what might have been if injuries and rain offs had gone their way.

However, Comets fans can afford to dream again next season with arguably an even more impressive line up put together by Denham.

Returning are Harrison, Lawson, Ingalls and Irving and they will be joined by Barrow- based rider Adam Roynon who starred with a number of guest appearances towards the end of the season, teenage sensation Kyle Howarth and number one Rene Bach who has lit up the Derwent Park track with some stunning performances for Newcastle as well as a guest for the Comets.

Here’s to hoping 2012 brings some silverware to Derwent Park.

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