The Eastbourne Seagulls, powered by Save Thurrock Hammers Speedway were dealt a hammer blow in their first match of the season tonight (May 19) against the Leicester Cubs.
The match was all to play for until heat nine was half-way through. Henry Atkins suddenly pulled up at the start of lap 3 with a dislocated shoulder and took no further part in the meeting.
That allowed the home team to open up a 31-23 lead which left the Sussex side with a mountain to climb.
However, they battled on and salvaged one league point because they lost by fewer than seven points.
The Seagulls hope Atkins will only be on the sidelines for a few weeks.
He will be seeking medical advice on Thursday (May 20).
Seagulls No 1 Jake Knight (pictured) turned in a masterclass on his return to the Eastbourne ranks, scoring 15 points from five rides.
Knight was an inspiration to the team who rallied when all seemed lost.
Team manager Will Pottinger said he was fairly confident the Seagulls would have ‘nicked” the victory had Atkins not been injured.
“It was a major handicap to lose a rider who had already won a couple of races. That was a major loss and one you cannot replace with due respect to the reserves.
“We battled on and managed to get a few heat advantages later in the meeting to bring the score closer and Jake did the business in the last heat.
“He rode fantastically well all night.
“Nathan Ablitt made a great contribution and he deserved heat 15. It was a bit of long shot to use him with Jake but it gives him an idea of what he will be up against in heat 15s in future.”
Pottinger said everyone would feel better for getting the first meeting out the way.
He added: “We have to be happy going home with a point, given the circumstances. It was well deserved.”
The Seagulls will have to use rider replacement for Atkins on Saturday when they face the Newcastle Gems art Arlington Stadium as the second match of a double header.
Leicester: Dan Thompson 14 (6 rides), Joe Thompson 12+1 (5), Joe Lawlor 8+1 (4), Tom Spencer 7+4 (5), James Chattin 4+1 (5), Kai Ward 2+1 (5).
Eastbourne: Jake Knight 15 (5), Nathan Ablitt 11+1 (7), Henry Atkins 6 (3), Chad Wirtzfeld 5 (4), Richard Andrews 4+1 (4), Connor King 1+1 (3), Nick Laurence 1 (4).