Gates Closed on Dudley Wood
R. Promotor - Eli Sumner, Wilf Wilstead, Guy Allott, Les Tolley, Harry
Bastable, Brian Shepherd, team mechanic - Bill Spencer,
|The pre-season additions were a third Tolley brother, Jim signed
from Birmingham, joining Dick and Les in Cradley colours, plus his Brummie
team-mate Fred Perkins. However, in the Summer, team manager Dick Wise
turned to further signings, Derek Braithwaite and former Heathen, Geoff
Bennett, in an attempt to halt a decline in team form. Bennett had
suffered a broken leg during the previous season and also came to Dudley
Wood from First Division Birmingham in order to regain some
Perkins at first appeared to be a shrewd acquisition, but after good early season form, struggled to maintain his scoring power in the league campaign. Jim Tolley was able to match the ability of brother Les, although Dick, the third member of the clan, saw his average drop to less than 3.00. Bennett was only a shadow of his former self, achieving an average around the 4.00 mark and the Heathens also suffered an alarming drop in Guy Allott's points return. Emerging through the ranks however was Harry Bastable, who picked up where he had left off at the end of 1951, by showing the consistency which turned him into a star performer. 1952 was Harry's breakthrough year as he lowered the Dudley Wood track record and by the summer was helping himself to maximums against some of the top second division teams. He became the undisputed new number one and darling of the crowd, with considerable support from Brian Shepherd, who made it a successful second season with the club.
Bastable's exploits were enough to lead the Heathens back to a much more respectable fourth place in the final league table, and with the faithful Phil Malpass providing back up to the Tolley brothers in the middle order, Cradley had a much more solid look. They enjoyed some highly entertaining tussles throughout the season with Leicester both home and away, but were knocked out of the Midland Cup by Coventry. Demonstrating a nagging inconsistency, they threw away a 26-point first leg lead against Stoke, to duck out of the National Trophy, but then went to the same track in the league and ended Stoke's 100% league record with a deserved victory.
Despite more success and entertainment than the previous year, the club lost money again, and at the end of 1952 the gates closed on Dudley Wood for an extended break. The plug was pulled and there would be no more action until the end of the decade with the bulk of the Heathens squad were moved to Wolverhampton.
statistics taken from the Cradley Speedway database for NL matches only.
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