Ben Fund Team Give It A Good Go

Latest News Sunday 22nd August 2021, 7:56pm

by Hayley Bromley

A TEAM representing the Speedway Riders' Benevolent Fund took part in a football match at Cogenhoe United Football Club, near Northampton, earlier today (Sunday) and helped raise valuable funds for the charity.

The Ben Fund Celebrity XI led 1-0, but eventually slipped to a 7-1 defeat against a side largely consisting of old pro players.

The match was part of Waggy's Bikes With No Brakes Speedway Extravaganza, organised by former King's Lynn and Oxford promoter Nigel Wagstaff.

The day also consisted of a fine display of around 50 old speedway, longtrack and grasstrack bikes, with luminaries such as Jeremy Doncaster, Lawrence Hare, Karl Fiala and Julian Wigg amongst those in attendance.

The line-up of the Ben Fund Celebrity XI that took to the pitch had Alan Beard in goal, the mechanic of James Sarjeant.

In defence were promoters Lee Kilby (captain) and Carl Johnson, plus riders Paco Castagna and Jake Knight. The midfield consisted of cycle speedway rider Will Jeffrey, speedway riders Ryan Douglas and James Sarjeant, and speedway photographer Taylor Lanning. Up front were rider Nick Morris and speedway supporter Lee Websdale.

Former rider Sam Norris and fan Will Thorpe started the match as substitutes, with manager Paul Ackroyd and skipper Kilby then rotating their 13 players during the match.

In opposition, Waggy's Football Select most consisted of old pros, led by Ian Benjamin, who made nearly 500 appearances in the Football League between 1979 and 1994, playing primarily as a forward for several teams, including Peterborough, Northampton, Luton Town and Southend United.

The Ben Fund side soon showed that they weren't going to be overwhelmed and scored first, with a great strike from James Sarjeant making it 1-0.

The pros then equalised, while Sarjeant was then caught offside a couple of times - proof that it's not just speedway referees who stop him in his tracks!

At half time, the score was 1-1. But the pros came out on a mission in the second half and soon scored to move 2-1 ahead.

The Ben Fund side appeared to have equalised from a screamer into the top corner from Lanning, but it was deemed as offside, much to the consternation of the Ben Fund players.

Lanning had plenty of speed, so one of the old pros decided to slow him down, leaving him with stud marks in his thigh. Despite his bloodied leg, the 19-year-old photographer played on.

Kilby and Johnson had been the bedrock of the defence, but an ailing Johnson came off halfway through the second half.

The other team also brought on several younger players with fresh legs, who ran the Ben Fund team ragged, while the old pros were still on the pitch alongside them, showing their class.

"The result was a late flurry of goals which brought the eventual final scoreline to 7-1 in favour of Waggy's Football Select.

Captain Lee Kilby said: "It was a really good effort by our side. We went 1-0 up, after a great finish by James Sarjeant and it was 1-1 at half time.

"They took a 2-1 lead early in the second half, but we then thought it was 2-2, after Taylor Lanning scored an absolute pearler. That was disallowed for offside, harshly we thought!

"We'd held our own in the first half, but then we started to get a bit tired as the second half progressed and we started to fall apart a bit.

"The other side were ex-professionals, so they passed the ball around the pitch well, while we ended up chasing shadows. I recognised a couple of the players we were playing against.

"A couple of their challenges were a little over the top. But I don't think you can be an ex-pro and play without giving it your absolute all each time you play.

"Taylor did a couple of stepovers and left one of their players for dead and he decided he wasn't going to let Taylor do that again and left him with a nasty cut in the top of his leg.

"They may be advancing in years, but you don't forget how to trap a ball and pass a ball, while they also brought on some younger legs against us.

"I felt overall it was a valiant effort from us and it was enjoyable.

"It's nice to do something that raises the profile of the Ben Fund, because it's been a strange old 18 months for them.

"They had their meeting at the start of the 2020 season. Since then, they're had the odd fund-raising event, such as Mitchell Davey and I shaving our heads, and Mitchell also did a cycle ride recently.

"Now that tracks can do collections again, it will hopefully start to swell the coffers a bit.

"Not of us live that close, but you make the effort when it's for the Ben Fund. We're all happy to do our little bit. We did challenge the ex-pros to a return speedway meeting next week, but they didn't fancy it!

"Thank you to everyone who played today. Some of the riders came and played for us, despite coming up to an important stage in their season, because it's for the Ben Fund."