CRADLEY skipper Paul Starke insists the hard work is about to start for his side.

Heathens currently top the National League table after a hard fought win at Buxton on Sunday – but Starke says they’ve had an easy run of fixtures to date.

Cradley go to Kent on Monday without three key riders due to fixtures clashes – and the next home meeting is against the in-form Coventry Storm on Tuesday, July 22 at Monmore.

They will also be without Steve Worrall, one of the top riders in British racing right now, for the visit of arch rivals Mildenhall on August 12 as he is racing for Premier League Edinburgh.

Said Starke: “With all due respect to the guys at Buxton and Scunthorpe, they are the weaker teams in the league and the hard work starts now for us.

“We are moving into the second half of the National League season and it’s going to be a tough run-in and I expect some pretty hard racing at Monmore which will be in contrast with what we’ve seen so far.

“We’ve just got to keep it going. We’re in a great position in the league and we’re through to the next round of the Knockout Cup at the expense of Mildenhall. So far, so good!”

Meanwhile the countdown is on to the showpiece FAST Golden Hammer at Monmore on Tuesday, July 29.

The event, which promotes Dudley Stroke Association and their Face, Arm, Speech, Time (FAST) message to recognise symptoms of stroke, is set to pull in a bumper crowd.

Reigning champion Lewis Blackbird, a hero of last season’s Heathens title winning team, will return to defend his crown along with former champions Kyle Newman and Simon Lambert.

And Ashley Birks, who has hit out at British Speedway chiefs for not giving him a chance at Elite League level, has also been handed a place in the field.

Heathens stars Steve Worrall, Tom Perry, Max Clegg, Matt Williamson, Nathan Greaves and Danny Phillips are also in the field with Worrall in particular one of the favourites.

The event features 16 riders over 20 heats with normal admission prices - £11 adults, £8 concessions and £2 children with a special souvenir programme for £3.

Just 48-hours before that, Heathens legend Billy Hamill will appear at Brierley Hill’s Copthorne Hotel for ‘An evening with Billy Hamill and Friends’ – tickets are £10 from the Cradley shop or online and co to the website shop.

Hamill will be joined by a host of former Heathens team mates and tickets are selling fast.