OXFORD Cheetahs enjoyed the perfect night as they marked their long-awaited return with victory at a sold-out Oxford Stadium.

In their first competitive fixture for 15 years, Jason Crump’s men beat Scunthorpe Scorpions 49-40 to get their SGB Championship season up and running.

Cheetahs sealed victory in the final heat, with Australian international Troy Batchelor and captain Scott Nicholls pairing up to bring the hosts home with a 5-1 win.

AS IT HAPPENED: Relive speedway's return to Oxford here

It sent the 2,000-strong crowd into a frenzy on an emotional evening at a stadium that had not hosted speedway since 2007.

“It’s overwhelming, I was trying to keep it together all night,” said promoter Jamie Courtney.

“It was amazing, Troy and Scott really did the business.

“I was nervous at one point, but the boys pulled it out the bag.”

Batchelor bookended the meeting with victory in the first and last heats as the only rider to claim a maximum.

He said: “A stadium full of fans, a win for the team and maximum points for myself. You can’t ask for much more than that.”

Meanwhile, skipper Nicholls wowed the fans with some sensational overtaking manoeuvres on his way to claiming 12 points.

He said: “Hopefully we’ve sent the fans home happy.

“It was so nice to see a full stadium. I hope it stays that way all season.

“The crowd were great, it’s so nice to hear people coming back who have missed it desperately.”

Several fans streamed into the Sandy Lane venue from the moment the doors opened at 5.30pm, two hours before tapes up.

Many of those were loyal Cheetahs supporters who followed the club long before it folded in 2007, like Greater Leys resident Stuart Baker.

He said: “It’s a dream come true.

“As each year ticked by you couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.

“For this day to happen, I can’t explain what it means.”

Campaigners fought long and hard to bring the Sandy Lane venue back into use after it closed, before businessman Kevin Boothby secured a ten-year lease for the site last June.

The Save Oxford Stadium group worked tirelessly for many years and one member, Northway resident James Lawson, was thrilled to see their efforts were not in vain.

He said: “We fought to get this back and I’m happy with it.

“It’s nice to be back to see the fans I’ve known for many years.”

The excitement was overwhelming for some fans who thought the stadium might never open again.

Helen Pitson, from Blackbird Leys, said: “I didn’t sleep properly last night, it’s so nice to be back.”

Philip Marsh, from Wallingford, added: “It would have been awful if they’d come back with a mediocre side.

“They’ve shown they can come back with a chance of winning it.”


OXFORD 49: Troy Batchelor 15, Scott Nicholls 12+2, Jack Thomas 7+1, Cameron Heeps 7, Dillon Ruml 5, Kyle Newman 2, Josh Macdonald 1+1.

SCUNTHORPE 40: Ryan Douglas 9, Jake Allen 8, Tero Aarnio 7+2, Zaine Kennedy 5+1, Jordan Palin 5, Simon Lambert 3+1, Ryan Kinsley 3.

Championship points: Oxford 3, Scunthorpe 0.