The Buxton Hitmen got their 2002 season off to a winning start after grinding out a narrow victory over Rye House Raiders in a last heat decider. The visitors were handicapped by the loss of Chris Courage after a mid-meeting crash, which meant a busy afternoon for Raiders' reserve Edward Kennett.

The Buxton track is a little tricky with the first two turns slightly downhill and turns three and four slightly uphill. It takes a bit of technique and throttle control to ride it well - and none rode it better this afternoon that Buxton's Jon Armstrong who raced to full five ride maximum which included the match clincher in heat fifteen.

Armstrong apart, many other riders from both teams had more than a little trouble navigating the descents and ascents and a fair sprinkling of falls accidents were spread through the proceedings. Mostly the affected riders got up, brushed themselves down and carried on, the unlucky exception being Courage. He clashed with Buxton's Chris Collins in heat nine and withdrew from the meeting on medical advice. At that point Courage had one win and one second place from his two rides and had he been fit to continue the result of the meeting could have been much different.

Buxton took the lead in heat one when Aidan Collins nipped up the inside of Simon Wolstenholme and then nosed four points ahead when Armstrong beat Courage in heat four with Richard Moss third. Courage and James Cockle got a couple back in heat six before the Raiders took a five point lead in heat eight. Wolstenholme and Jeremy Pestell riding round on their own after both Buxton riders got themselves excluded for falls causing the race to be re-run.

The Hitmen gained lost ground in heat ten with a maximum after former Buxton rider Robert McNeil got a bit tangled up with Aiden Collins and was adjudged to be at fault. Three shared heats followed before the home side regained the lead with a maximum in heat thirteen. The injured Courage was a non-starter and replaced by reserve Pestell. Armstrong and Aiden Collins had too much for Wolstenholme as Buxton snatched a three point lead with two heats left.

Cockle showed he'd got the hang of things with a fine win in heat fourteen from Paul Burnett and the lively Kennet in third to set up that last heat decider. Kennet and Cockle got the call again but were outclassed by Armstrong and Aiden Collins.

Buxton's twin spearhead of Aiden Collins and Armstrong was the telling factor at the end of the day, dropping just one point between them (when Collins was beaten by Courage in heat six) all afternoon.

Rye House will be cursing their luck at losing Courage but must be very pleased with the top scoring return from Edward Kennett. Young Edward certainly looks very talented should know what it's all about being the son of former Hackney rider David Kennett and the nephew of Barney and Gordon - both of who (Gordon in particular) had successful speedway careers.

Buxton 47 - 42 Rye House, Conference League, Sunday 21 April 2002

Aidan Collins 12, Lee Derbyshire 1, Chris Collins 5, Paul Burnett 7, Jon Armstrong 15, Carl Bellfield 4, Richard Moss 2

Rye House:
Simon Wolstenholme 8, (rider replacement for Barrie Evans), Robert McNeil 7, James Cockle 6, Chris Courage 5, Edward Kennett 13, Jeremy Pestell