A slow start for the Mancunians saw them playing catch up immediately the tapes went up as the home guard duo of Lewis Bridger and Kim Nilsson delivered a first heat 5-1 to settle their nerves.
The visitors were far from beaten however and set to work preventing that gap from growing, with Aces stars Richie Worrall and Scott Nicholls providing two of the subsequent three heat winners.
Worrall twins Richie and Steve then looked set to be the thorns in the side of the Vortex Hammers after a 5-1 in Heat 5 brought the scores to within two points as the evening approached half way.
Captain Scott Nicholls mirrored the stupendous form he produced while guesting for the Essex club against Swindon last week, delivering a flawless paid 15 maximum from five appearances.
But it was not quite the solid performance team manager Mark Lemon had been hoping for, particularly with both Max Fricke and Joe Jacobs failing to score from their programmed rides.
Further dramatic scenes came in Heat 13 after Matej Zagar was excluded for leaving the track after an unsatisfactory start, with the Slovenian less than impressed at being kicked out.
That didn’t prevent Craig Cook and reserve replacement Richie Worrall from delivering a vital 5-1 to level the meeting. From there, Belle Vue continued flexing their muscles to claim the win.
Lemon said: “It was important to keep things as tight as possible on Wednesday. Some of the boys were struggling but that’s part of the charm of these Belle Vue Aces. They unite and push on.
“Max had a bit of a bad night and Joe unfortunately hasn’t been feeling great these last few days. He had to pull out of his meeting with Ipswich at the weekend and he still wasn’t 100% at Lakeside.
“But he did the best he could in the circumstances, though come the home leg we’ll really need him to be chipping in. He’s got good confidence at our place though and we have great faith in him.
“As far as this meeting was concerned, it’s job done. We knew that no matter who we chose in the Semi-Finals it was going to be tough and early doors the Hammers gave us plenty to think about.
“But in classic style, the boys rallied to the cause and really knuckled down. We’d have been happy with just a four-point lead going into the home leg so to have extended that to eight is tremendous.”
RESULT – PLAY OFF SEMI-FINAL LEG 1 – WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 21ST
Lakeside ‘Vortex’ Hammers 41
Lewis Kerr 9+1, Richard Lawson 8+2, Kim Nilsson 8+2, Lewis Bridger 7+1, Edward Kennett 7, Ben Morley 2+1, Andreas Jonsson R/R
Belle Vue ‘Rentruck’ Aces 49
Richie Worrall 15+1, Scott Nicholls 13+2, Craig Cook 11, Matej Zagar 6, Steve Worrall 4+1, Max Fricke 0, Joe Jacobs 0
Words: Hayley Bromley
Images: Ian Charles