Reading pulled clear at the top of the Elite League courtesy of a 55-40 win over the Belle Vue Aces in front of a bumper Bank Holiday crowd on Monday night at Smallmead Stadium.

Swindon had pulled level at the top of the table earlier in the evening when they defeated Ipswich at home, but Reading reclaimed top spot outright with a comfortable fifteen-point victory over the Aces, which also leaves them in a healthy position for the bonus point in the return fixture on Wednesday.

Bulldogs team manager Jim Lynch was delighted with the win, he said afterwards: "It was a great team effort once again. All the meetings now are like a cup tie, and we have another five more of them to come before the play-offs start up. We're looking good for a top two spot now."

Travis McGowan topped the Reading score chart with a magnificent 12 (paid 14) and Greg Hancock was next best with 11 (paid 13).

New World Champion Jason Crump showed his class for the Aces with 15 points and Kenneth Bjerre had some good rides in his 9 (paid 10) score.

Reading went into the meeting without Andy Smith, who now faces a further extended spell on the sidelines with a leg injury sustained on Sunday afternoon in a Polish League meeting. Sheffield's Kyle Legault answered the call and stepped into the Bulldogs reserve berth to face the Aces.

Belle Vue were hit by the withdrawal of former Reading rider Phil Morris as the Welshman aggravated a shoulder injury in a fall at Arena Essex on Friday. His absence was covered by rider-replacement.

The Bulldogs got off to a flyer with McGowan and Hancock racing to an opening heat 5-1, and it was more of the same when Sam Simota and guest Karl Legault raced to a maximum over Tom P Madsen in heat 2.

McGowan stormed to his second victory of the night to win a shared heat 3 ahead of Joe Screen and Bjerre, and then Crump won a drawn heat 4 to make the progressive score 16-8.

Charlie Gjedde and McGowan were first away from the tapes in heat 5, where they went onto race to a comfortable 5-1 over Simon Stead and Henrik Moller.

With Belle Vue twelve points adrift team manager Ian Thomas put Crump out in heat 6 as a tactical ride for double points. When the tapes lifted Hancock shot from the start and held off the challenge of Crump for four laps to take the win and with Simota beating Moller for third place, the race was drawn 4-4.

Screen just held off the resistance of Matej Zagar to win heat 7, and with Legault picking up a good third place ahead of Bjerre, the race was drawn once again. This left Reading twelve points up (28-16) as the meeting approached the midway point.

Bjerre made the start in heat 8, but Zagar passed the Dane at the end of the opening lap, where he went onto take the chequered flag. Simota defeated Madsen for third, so the ensuing Bulldogs 4-2 increased their lead to 32-18.

Crump then got back to winning ways when he gave the Aces a share of the points when winning heat 9 ahead of Gjedde and McGowan.

Hancock made the start in heat 10, but Bjerre cut back up the middle as the riders came off the second bend, where he went onto take an impressive win over the Bulldogs skipper. Gjedde beat Screen for third, so the race ended honours even once again.

Stead was a surprise choice of tactical ride in heat 11, but he was to prove all the doubters wrong when he won the race from Zagar and Legault. The gave Belle Vue their first heat advantage of the night (6-3), which pulled the scores back to 41-30.

Bjerre once again showed his liking for the Smallmead track by blasting around the outside of the second bend to win heat 12, but with McGowan and Gjedde filling in for the other placings for Reading, it resulted in another shared race.

Heat 13 also ended in a 3-3 when Crump comfortably beat his GP rivals Zagar and Hancock.

Gjedde just held off a determined Screen to win heat 14 and with Simota third, the Bulldogs 4-2 increased their advantage to 51-38 going into the final race of the evening.

Heat 15 proved to be the race of the night. Hancock pulled off a big blast around the first two turns to lead Crump, but the World Champion fought back to chase the American for four laps, before just narrowly losing out to Hancock on the finishing line. McGowan passed Bjerre on the second lap to take the third place, so the last heat 4-2 to the Bulldogs made the final score 55-40.

The Bulldogs next Elite League meeting is on Wednesday in the return meeting against Belle Vue at Kirkmanshulme Lane (7.30pm).

 

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