READING Racers' hopes of a blistering second half of the season and an assault on the Midland & Southern Development League title spluttered and stalled at Swindon's Abbey Stadium as they were beaten 21-15 by Birmingham in a tense match.

The "Ductair" Bulls took a six-point win, but while the Reading management are disappointed with any loss, this was always going to be a hard one to win.

Racers knew they lacked firepower in the bottom half of the team and needed their top two to be immaculate if they were to take anything from this contest.

Nick Laurence and William O'keefe stuck doggedly to their task, but couldn't dominate their Midland counterparts enough to keep the team in the hunt.

Reading's old anthem of Monday Monday filled the air before the first race and skipper Laurence, adorned in a new race jacket sponsored by Reading Harley Davidson, gave the home side some hope when he powered from the tapes.

He led all the way from Bailey Fellows and Arran Butcher with team mate Eli Meadows at the back.

In a tight start to heat two, O'keefe moved to the front around the first two bends to lead National League rider Sheldon Davies, but the Bull exerted enough pressure to find his way past O'keefe on the last bend of lap two and take the win.

Behind them Jacob Fellows was comfortable in front of Rhys Laker to give Birmingham a 7-5 lead.

The third race brought disappointment for the Racers camp when the normally fast starting Laurence lifted and found himself behind Birmingham's Davies and Jacob Fellows as they hit the back straight.

As much as he tried, there was no way past the rapidly improving Fellows.

In race four, Butcher slid off as he chased O'keefe into the second bend of the third lap. The race was stopped and the win awarded to the Racer, with Bailey Fellows second and Laker third, cutting the deficit to four points.

The fifth was always going to be a tough one, and as Davies cruised home to complete his maximum, Bailey Fellows was out again and secured second place ahead of Laker and Meadows, giving their team an unassailable lead at 19-11.

Laker was disappointed not to take any points off his opposite numbers, but the progress made by the Fellows cousins was noticeable to all who saw them last season. Meadows, while new to this standard of racing, is very much a work in progress and is expected by many to make the grade in time.

Heat six was about pride for the Reading team, and they started well, leading the lone Bulls rider Jacob Fellows from the start, Butcher having withdrawn with a sick motor.

Fellows again showed his mettle by pressuring O'Keefe and finally getting by as they entered the last lap. There was no catching Laurence though as he took his second win of the night.

A final scoreline of 21-15, while disappointing for a club set on success, was nonetheless respectable for a weakened team.

Bulls' Sheldon Davies showed why he is currently in the Cradley Heath team, but Laurence and O'keefe proved that they are still in the mix as they strive to get back into Speedway's third division.

Reading's managers will now go and look again at their squad as they continue to search for a winning formula and a group of riders eager to take them above their current 5th place in the table.


Reading Racers 15;

Laurence 7, Meadows 0, O'keefe 6, Laker 2.

Birmingham Ductair Bulls 21;

Butcher 1+1, B. Fellows 6+1, J. Fellows 5+1, Davies 9.

Heat details:

Ht 1. Laurence, B. Fellows, Butcher, Meadows.

Ht 2. Davies, O'keefe, J. Fellows, Laker.

Ht 3. Davies, J. Fellows, Laurence, Meadows.

Ht 4. O'keefe, B. Fellows, Laker, Butcher fell

Ht 5. Davies, B. Fellows, Laker, Meadows.

Ht 6. Laurence, J. Fellows, O'keefe, Butcher non starter.