OXFORD Cheetahs ended the opening round of their three-team tournament with only two fit riders on a dramatic evening on the Isle of Wight.

Skipper Nathan Stoneman injured his sternum, collarbone and ankle in his second crash of the night during heat 13, after James Laker was ruled out by a damaged ankle earlier on.

It restricted Gordon Kennett’s side to 23 points at the Smallbrook Stadium in Ryde, three short of Cradley Heath and 18 behind the home team.

Heavy rain earlier in the week had made conditions difficult and the Cheetahs boss thought his side were unfortunate.

Kennett said: “We were a bit unlucky. Nathan should have had a couple of more wins – he was well clear each time when he came off.

"Had that not happened, it would have put on a very different complexion on the meeting.

“The track was a bit tricky to begin with. But, to the credit of the track staff, they put it right and the racing was very good later in the meeting.

“I hope both of our lads who got injured are okay and have escaped with bruising.

“It was brilliant to see Oxford back in action on the track and that was the main purpose of this meeting.

“It didn’t go our way tonight but that’s speedway.

“But we plan to come back in two weeks’ time for the second meeting, firing on all cylinders.”

A bumper crowd were treated to 27 races in total, although it was apparent very early it would not be Cheetahs’ day.

Herald Series:

Stoneman was clear in heat two when he picked up drive on the fourth bend and crashed, turning a 4-2 to Cheetahs into a 4-2 to Wightlink Warriors.

Jamie Sealey fell in his opening two outings, but Ryan Terry-Daley claimed Oxford’s first victory in heat six – after which the track was fixed through remedial work.

Stoneman hauled back a 15-metre handicap to win heat nine, although the triumph was dampened by Laker’s injury.

Stoneman won race 11, with Terry-Daley third, but disaster struck in heat 13.

The Greater Leys rider was leading when a crash at the second turn threw him into the back fence and he was advised to go for a hospital check-up in Oxford after being checked over by paramedics.

Stoneman’s fall changed a 3-3 to a 5-1 to Cradley Heath, which proved the difference in the race for second place.

The next match in the three-team tournament takes place at the same location on Thursday, August 12.

Final scores:

Oxford: Nathan Stoneman 8, James Laker 2, Ryan Terry-Daley 11, Jamie Sealey 2+1. Total: 23 points.

Isle Of Wight: Chad Wirtzfeld 11+1, Alex Spooner 11+3, Danno Verge 15, Morgan Williams 4. Total: 41 points.

Cradley Heath: Luke Harris 12, Chris Watts 4+3, Scott Campos 8, Patryk Daniszewski 2. Total: 26 points.