The Kent Sweepers Hammers continue their home Premier Trophy campaign this Friday when the Isle of Wight Wightlink Islanders provide the opposition at the Purfleet Raceway.

And following their defeat at Reading on Monday the team are determined to grab victory together with the bonus point having lost the away match by just four points.

Despite having won their "home leg" by those mere four points, make no mistake, the Islanders are a class side and have set their sights firmly on not only retaining the Young Shield but also on winning the league itself and all the other major honours!

They have retained four riders from last year's squad as the basis of their 2002 septet -Ray Morton, Frenchman Sebastian Tresarrieu, Danny Bird and Aussie Adam Shields.

Morton is, without doubt, one of the top riders in the Premier League. Born and bred in South London, 'The Ripper' (as he is affectionately known!) is a hugely influential character both on an off the track. He has worked very hard indeed during the winter to overcome the effects of a serious shoulder injury sustained at the end of last season and should know our circuit well as he and his wife Faye, together with daughter Rikki Raye are regular visitors to Arena Essex on a Friday night when he's not racing.

Also returning is 22 year old Guildford-based Danny Bird who's widely regarded as one of the finest young British prospects around. He was the top rider in the 'Young GB' side that toured Australia this winter -quite remarkable when you consider that he only started riding speedway in the winter of 1997/8 after being a highly successful motocross rider. Ironically his tutor when he first decided to have a crack at the shale sport was Arena-Essex's Kelvin Tatum! As well as riding for the Island side this season, Danny is also be having outings for Ipswich in the Sky Sports Elite League, sharing one of the reserve spots with Arena's own Leigh Lanham.

Australian Adam Shields was given his initial chance by the Wightlink Islanders in May 2000 after literally phoning the club and pleading to be given a chance! He arrived in this country at the beginning of that year without a guaranteed team place but slotted in nicely when he was drafted in as an injury replacement for injured Frenchman Phillipe Berge. Since then Adam has rapidly developed into one of the top riders in the Premier League.

Completing the list of four 'returnees' from last year is exciting young Frenchman Sebastian Tresarrieu. 'Seb' is unquestionably the finest speedway prospect ever to emerge from France and the Isle of Wight management believe he is destined for the top.

So with those top four riders all re-signed, the IOW stepped up their search during the winter for three riders to complete the new look 2002 side.

And three English youngsters were signed to fill those spots, two of them with strong Arena Essex connections. Those three are ex-Hammers Matt Read and Nick Simmons plus teenage sensation, 17 years young Daniel Giffard.

Read, is on loan to the IOW from Arena-Essex having taken a year out of the sport last year but is keen to make up for lost time in 2002. Currently though, he is facing a battle to be fit for Friday having damaged shoulder ligaments in a crash at the Champion of Champions Grasstrack meeting at Swingfield in Kent last Sunday.

Simmons returns to Smallbrook after spells with Arena-Essex, Newport and Somerset. He's now fully recovered from a broken leg he sustained at the beginning of the 2000 season. He's ultra keen to do well and demonstrated that he could well be one to watch in the 2002 Premier League having put in some excellent performances last season whilst riding for the Somerset Rebels in the Conference League.

And finally teenager Giffard was signed on loan from Elite League Eastbourne and gets his first crack at Premier League racing in 2002. Last season he rode for Rye House in the Conference League and has recently returned from a winter spent racing, on a freelance basis, in Australia.

Logic dictates that The Kent Sweepers Hammers should win comfortably but the Islanders could prove to be dangerous opponents.

So, looking ahead to Friday's match (tapes up at 8pm) the two teams will line up as follows:

Kent Sweepers Hammers:
1 Kelvin Tatum; 2 Shaun Tacey (C); 3 Colin White; 4. Andy Galvin; 5 Leigh Lanham; 6 Lee Herne and 7 Scott Courtney. Manager: Martin Goodwin.

IOW:
1 Danny Bird; 2 Matt Read; 3 Ray Morton (C); 4 Seb Tresarrieu; 5 Adam Shields; 6 Nick Simmons and 7 Daniel Giffard. Manager: Jed Stone.

Admission prices:
Adults - ?10 (including match programme)
OAPs - ?5.50 (including match programme)
Children (5-14yrs) - ?2.00 (excluding match programme)

No joy at Reading...

The Kent Sweepers Hammers travelled to Reading's Smallmead Stadium Monday night and returned empty handed not only losing 54-36 but losing out on the bonus point in the process too.

The latter looked to be in the bag with the Racers leading by just six points at 39-33 with just three heats to go.

Amazingly, and very disappointingly from Arena-Essex's point of view, the home side slammed in 5-1 heat advantages in each of those three races to take that all-important bonus by 92 points to 88.

A very disappointing night it has to be said from Arena-Essex's perspective.

Final score:
Reading 54 - 36 Kent Sweepers Hammers.

Scorers:
Reading: Dave Mullett 13+1, Anders Henriksson 10+1, Phil Morris 10+1, Paul Clews 7+1, Glen Phillips 7+1, Jason Bunyan 6, Chris Schramm 1+1.

Kent Sweepers Hammers: Leigh Lanham 13, Colin White 10+1, Shaun Tacey 5+1, Lee Herne 4, Kelvin Tatum 2, Scott Courtney 1+1, Andy Galvin 1.

Young Scott makes good progress...

"A week is a long time in Speedway!"- So said Ronnie Russell when reflecting on the form of young Hammers reserve, Scott Courtney, following his performance in last Friday's home Premier Trophy match against Reading. The south London-based youngster had started the meeting with a win and then a paid win - a stark contrast to his his previous home appearance against Rye House Rockets when he had not troubled the scorers.

Russell continued: "A week earlier, he had looked out-classed, over-awed and under-powered, but his confidence started to come at the Isle of Wight encounter, away last Tuesday and he certainly seemed a totally different proposition this week. We know he can do it, but he's got to believe it as well."