RETURNING captain Scott Nicholls led Oxford Cheetahs to their biggest win of the season as they beat Plymouth Gladiators 50-40 at Sandy Lane.

The experienced skipper top-scored with 13+1 on his first outing for the hosts after injury.

It helped keep alive Cheetahs’ faint hopes of reaching the SGB Championship play-offs, with the gap now five points going into their last two meetings.

Coach Peter Schroeck predicted Nicholls would make a difference after two tight defeats and he sealed victory with wins in heats 13 and 15.

He said: “Scott is like an old wine, he’s just getting better each time.

“Heat 13 and heat 15 are the sort of races you need riders like Scott, you can rely on them.

“We missed him terribly, but we’ve just got to keep going and we showed what we’re capable of.”

Fourth-place Plymouth took the first heat 4-2 and stayed ahead until Nicholls and Dillon Ruml claimed a 5-1 in the sixth race to make it 19-17.

Cheetahs enjoyed a strong middle part of the meeting and did not relinquish the lead, with all their riders scoring well except for Luke Killeen.

The 17-year-old Australian was dogged by mechanical issues and twice came off the bike, ending the evening pointless.

Nicholls’ win in heat 15 rounded off a successful meeting and Schroeck was thrilled with a relatively comfortable triumph.

He said: “It was a great evening for speedway again.

“It was nice not to have a last-heat decider, it made my life a little bit easier.

“There was some smashing racing out there and I’m really pleased for the boys.”

Cheetahs must win their final two meetings of the season and hope at least two teams above them lose their remaining fixtures to make the play-offs.

Schroeck added: “There’s no room for error and on top of that we need to rely on the ones a bit further up slipping up.

“All we can do is keep plugging away, win the remaining home matches and make the best out of the situation.

“Who knows, if there’s somebody up there looking after us we might slip in there.”

Cheetahs will hope other results boost their play-off hopes ahead of next Wednesday’s fixture against Berwick Bandits at Oxford Stadium (7.30pm).


OXFORD 50: Scott Nicholls 13+1, Cameron Heeps 11+1, Troy Batchelor 10, Aaron Summers 8+2, Dillon Ruml 8+1, Luke Killeenn 0, Paul Starke r/r.

PLYMOUTH 40: Ben Barker 12+1, Danny King 8, Ben Morley 7+3, Alfie Bowtell 6, Hans Andersen 6, Harry McGurk 1+1, Michael Palm Toft r/r.

Championship points: Oxford 3, Plymouth 0.