Drew's a real party pooper in last-heat loss for Brummies.
Byline: NIGEL PEARSON firstname.lastname@example.org
BIRMINGHAM'S 90th anniversary celebrations were spoiled in a tense last-heat decider by Mildenhall at Perry Barr last night.
The depleted Brummies fought back from six points down to get close to snatching a dramatic victory, but the Fen Tigers' 15-year-old wonderkid Drew Kemp produced a remarkable ride to win the crucial finale.
The Fen Tigers showed why they are the title favourites this season, and for the Brummies the absence of injured heatleader Danyon Hume proved costly.
Whilst Tom Bacon and James Shanes consistently won races, the fact that prolific reserve Leon Flint is now in the top five and unable to take extra rides made a significant difference to the outcome.
In fairness, Kemp is also out of the reserve berth for the Fen Tigers, and he delivered a superb performance.
The Brummies had little support for their upper order, although debutant Sheldon Davies did show encouraging signs and may well improve against teams who are not quite so strong.
Maximum advantages were hard to find for either side, and the Brummies overturned an early deficit in an eventful Heat 3 when Shanes worked his way past Josh Bailey whilst Flint salvaged third place when Danny Halsey hit trouble.
But the Fen Tigers responded with two successive 4-2s as Danny Ayres got the better of Shanes in the next race.
The visitors held a four-point lead for much of the mid-meeting stages, and Davies was clear of Sam Woods before the Mildenhall reserve fell in Heat 9. Kemp led Shanes for the majority of Heat 11 before the Brummies star surged around the outside on the last lap, but Bailey's win over Flint in the next helped the Fen Tigers go six points up.
There was drama in Heat 13 when Ayres crashed out for the visitors on the third bend, with Bacon and Shanes both passing Ryan Kinsley for a Brummies 5-1 in the re-run, putting the match right back in the balance.
Flint grabbed a win over Halsey in Heat 14 leaving the hosts requiring a maximum in the last to snatch victory - but this time they were thwarted by Kemp, who rode a superb outside line to fend off Bacon and Shanes, leaving the Brummies narrowly adrift.
BIRMINGHAM 44: James Shanes 15+1, Tom Bacon 13+1, Leon Flint 10, Sheldon Davies 3+1, Callum Walker 3, Arran Butcher 0, Danyon Hume r/r. MILDENHALL 46: Drew Kemp 13, Josh Bailey 9, Danny Ayres 8, Matt Marson 7+1, Ryan Kinsley 4+2, Danny Halsey 4+2,