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Proud Pottinger hails riders after sensational Heathens win
12:19pm Thursday 11th October 2012 in Sport
PROUD Will Pottinger has hailed the character of Dudley Heathens after their sensational win at Stoke.
The former Cradley club bulldozed their way into the National League Grand Final with a 54-41 semi-final second leg win at Loomer Road last night.
That secured a 98-84 aggregate triumph - in a tie many fans feared lost after the Heathens could only secure a one point advantage in Tuesday’s home leg.
But team manager Pottinger said he always believed they could pull through.
He said: “Of course there was a bit of doubt, simply because of the number of points we threw away on Tuesday.
“But I’ve got great confidence in our riders. We did not finish top of the league for no reason.
“It was definitely up their with our best performances over the past three years.
“We must have had a season’s bad luck in one night on Tuesday and it would have been so easy for us to go and hide and end the season on a low note.
“But the lads showed great character and really came back strong.”
Joe Haines scored a 15-point maximum - twice beating Stoke number one Ashley Birks - while fellow heat leaders Tom Perry and Ashley Morris were also on blistering form.
Even more importantly, reserve Darryl Ritchings scored 10+2 from seven rides as he carried the burden of rider replacement duties in the absence of Byron Bekker.
With the usually infallible Birks showing signs of weakness, Stoke’s James Cockle, Ben Reade and Tony Atkin found themselves unable to find an answer as heat after heat was controlled by the visitors.
The Heathens will now face either Mildenhall or the Isle of Wight in the final and Pottinger feels his side ave re-found their rhythm - after admitting the five week break between the end of the regular season and last Sunday’s Knockout Cup final first-leg had not helped.
He said: “A lot of our guys had not raced and were rusty but I feel like we are back up to speed now.
“We will take enormous confidence from last night and we’re just looking forward to the rest of the season.
“I thought Joe Haines was brilliant, he outgated Ashley Birks in heat 13 which you don’t see very often.
“Birks is a great rider and you have to accept he is going to win heats but we were able to limit his impact by grabbing 3-3s.
“Darryl Ritchings rode seven races on Tuesday and six last night and was brilliant - I think he is sleeping well these days.”
The Heathens are now planning to hold a huge double header on October 23, featuring both the National League Grand Final and Knockout Cup final second-leg.
Mildenhall visit Monmore Green for the Knockout Cup final and could be the opponets in the Grand Final.
Further details and admission prices will be unveiled shortly.