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© Richard Waller 2016

1982 Season Review

Crayford held on to all of their Kestrels from 1981 apart from loanee Keith Pritchard, who had moved on to Canterbury when Crayford said they wanted him as one of their own or not all.  The side also had quite a balanced feel about it, with a mixture of youth and experience.  Their first meeting of the new season was away to Kent rivals Canterbury, and Crayford ran the home side close before losing by four points.  Unfortunately they lost the return leg by five points and so the Kent Cup was on its way south to Canterbury.

Crayford also got off to a poor start in the National League with huge defeats at Mildenhall and Ellesmere Port in their first two fixtures.  They also lost at Stoke, despite Mark Collins’ points being deducted through contract irregularities, before claiming their first league points with a thumping great win at home to Oxford.  By this stage Trevor Barnwell had picked up a shoulder injury and then decided enough was enough and retired at the start of May.  They also lost junior Keith Cornell to injury after one meeting covering for Barnwell in the return fixture at Oxford.

The Kestrels had to wait over a month for their second taste of success in the league.  By then they had lost at home to Rye House and Canterbury and been beaten on a few more away circuits.  In fact before that second victory at home to Glasgow, Crayford’s league record read played 11 and lost 10.  During this spell, there were two Kestrels that were performing consistently.  Firstly, there was evergreen London legend Barry Thomas, regularly at the top of the scorechart and occasionally unbeatable.  He scored comfortably over 400 points in the season, which was comfortably much more than any of his team-mates, and gave great value for money.

The second leading light in those early season dark days was perhaps more of a surprise.  Michael Spinks had started the season at reserve but a string of good scores during April and May meant he had risen to number two in the rankings.  He was the only one who was consistently supporting Thommo, and on more than the odd occasion Spinks outscored him.  Sadly Spinks broke an ankle at the end of June which kept him off track until the end of August.  When he returned he was not the same rider although his scores certainly picked up again in the run of five home league meetings Crayford had to finish off their season.

After the Glasgow victory, Crayford were dumped out of the Knockout Cup by Rye House before winning twice more at home in three attempts during June.  By this stage Mike Pither was having a spell out of the side.  Pither was struggling to build on a good season the year before and continuing to find points hard to come by away from home.  He returned to the side for much of July and then had a further spell in the team during August and September before announcing his retirement during the home meeting against Long Eaton after picking up one point from three rides.  In that first spell out of the side, Pither was replaced by junior Andy Galvin, who looked a decent prospect before picking up a wrist injury that finished his season before people could judge his true potential.  Another junior Richard Newnham had a couple of outings later in the year without scoring.

The form of experienced Alan Sage picked up during June and July.  He was having a torrid time with machine problems and had very definitely dropped below the heat-leader level of the previous year.  His 13 points at home to Boston helped Crayford claim win number five in meeting number 18.  He also was paid for 13 a fortnight later against Newcastle, but there was no way the Kestrels could beat the mighty Diamonds.  Sage finally came good in that run of five home matches at the end of the season, dropping just two points to an opponent and picking up almost a quarter of his total tally for the year during those five meetings.

The other stalwart heat-leader when the season began was Laurie Etheridge, another crowd favourite.  The former Crayford number one had a very up and down season and was clearly nothing more than a second-string as his average dropped by over a point.  By the end of the season he was ranked behind rookie Alan Mogridge, who joined the Kestrels after a frustrating time trying to establish himself at Wimbledon.  Decent performances at Exeter and Boston showed what Moggo could do, then he scored paid 16 in the August victory over Weymouth before featuring even more strongly in the final month.

The signing of Mogridge meant the lengthy run in the side for Chris Tritton came to an end after Spinks recovered from his injury.  Tritton’s best was six at home to Berwick but he was no rival for Mogridge or Paul Bosley, the other rider whose team place could have been threatened.  Bosley was given a reserve berth at the start of the year and put in the occasional high score, like the dozen he scored against Oxford and then Peterborough.  He also picked up enough points on other occasions to suggest he was worth persevering with.  Once September came Bosley took off and scored almost as many points in the last third of the meetings as he did in the first two-thirds.

The rider who came in when Pither called it a day was Trevor Banks, the grasstrack ace.  He was first blooded away from the tricky London Road circuit and performed very well.  In the 10 meetings he had late in the year he scored much better away from home, and he set himself up for a very promising speedway career.

Despite it being a tough year for Crayford they probably didn’t want the season to end.  With almost everyone coming good, they won all of their last six league meetings, and rounded off with scores of 70, 69 and 76 as the side collected 11 maximums in those three weeks, to add to the one maximum scored all season before that.