Devils boss upset by late replacement ban
PLYMOUTH Devils boss Mike Bowden admitted he was astounded by a late rider replacement ban which effectively robbed his side of a Premier League win at St Boniface Arena.
Devils, without captain Ben Barker, who was competing abroad, brought in guest rider Ricky Kling as a replacement on Friday night.
The city side were also without the impressive Cory Gathercole, who was also racing out of the country.
Devils had planned to cope with his absence by using some of their top riders in races the Australian would have raced in.
But less than five hours before the meeting began, Devils were told they were not allowed to do that as it was considered Gathercole could have ridden for Plymouth before he left for his meeting abroad.
Bowden, who could not recall Gathercole in time, was forced to bring in Brendan Johnson from the National League, a level below the Devils.
No blame could be attached to Johnson, who was clearly not up to Premier League pace, and was thanked by Bowden afterwards for his efforts.
Bowden, however, found Devils' 48-42 home defeat by Redcar Bears hard to take.
He told Herald Sport: "We were left with a choice: either go ahead with six riders instead of seven, for which we would have got fined, or try to find a replacement.
"The rules say I had to find someone from the National League as a replacement and I am grateful to Brendan for stepping in at the last minute and helping us out.
"But I was absolutely astounded to be told at 10 minutes past three on the day of the meeting that we would not be able to use rider replacement.
"With that sort of notice, it left us in an awful position, because it made it difficult to find someone who could ride for us quickly."
Pre-meeting problems or not, Bowden did not completely exonerate some members of his team from Friday night's defeat.
Poole Pirate Kling slipped into Barker's role with little effort, combining with Ryan Fisher to squeeze out Devils' few triumphs of the evening.
Both recorded heat wins when not paired together and were unbeatable when they were.
Devils were already beaten by the final heat after blowing a chance to cut a 10-point deficit in the previous race, going down 5-1.
The Kling-Fisher axis extracted at least some pride from Devils' patchy performance, winning 5-1 in the final heat and making the overall score a little more respectable than perhaps it deserved to be.
Bowden has already released Gino Franchetti and replaced him with former Glasgow Tiger Robert Ksiezak last week. And indicated he was prepared to make more changes until the team were performing to his satisfaction.
The Devils chairman and promoter said: "Ricky filled in well for Ben Barker – he certainly scored as many points as Ben was likely to get, so we're very grateful for what he did.
"Ryan, meanwhile, gets better every race he appears in and as acting captain, really led from the front. You couldn't have asked more from either of those two.
"But what I'm not prepared to do is to go on losing to teams at reserve on our own track, which is where we're not winning points.
"Unless there is a distinct improvement soon, I am prepared to make more changes and I will do so, because it can't go on like this.
"Teams who don't know our track are coming here and beating us, which should not be happening.
"Our riders can't now use the excuse about lack of track time (at this stage of the season)."
Devils: Ricky Kling 13 points (5 rides), James Holder 5+1 (4), Brendan Johnson 0 (3), Todd Kurtz 6 (4), Ryan Fisher 11+3 (5). Reserves: Nicki Glanz 5 (5), Robert Ksiezak 2+1 (4)
Redcar: Jordan Frampton 6+1 points (4), Carl Wilkinson 4 (3), Justin Sedgmen 6 (4), Aaron Summers 9+2 (5), Matej Kus 9+1 (5). Reserves: Robert Branford 1 (3), Max Dilger 13+3 (6)