OXFORD Cheetahs rued their misfortune as an ill-timed downpour forced the abandonment of their meeting with Newcastle Diamonds.

Jason Crump’s side raced into a 17-7 lead after four heats at Sandy Lane, only for rain to replace the bright sunshine.

The fixture was halted and the referees spoke to both teams, before deciding to postpone due to a waterlogged track at about 8.15pm.

It was deeply frustrating for Cheetahs, and not just because of their fast start.

The hosts were contesting their first fixture for three weeks and had their full complement of riders in action with Troy Batchelor and Josh MacDonald back involved.

But promoter Jamie Courtney admitted it was right to postpone the meeting.

He said: “The team were doing really well, so it’s very unfortunate.

“The referee said the track’s unsafe to ride and I think it was the right decision.

“I’m not saying I couldn’t have saved the track, we may have got a few more heats under our belt but I think the right call was made.

“This was our first time with all the boys that we signed.

“The fans, promoters and everybody involved was looking forward to seeing the real strength of the team we built through the winter.”

Oxford Mail: Troy Batchelor (left) returned for Oxford Cheetahs Picture: Steve Edmunds

Troy Batchelor (left) returned for Oxford Cheetahs Picture: Steve Edmunds

Cheetahs were racing for the first time since their 47-43 win at Birmingham Brummies on May 18, which came 24 hours after a rain-affected home defeat to the same opponents.

They claimed three 5-1s in the first four heats, but the heavens opened at about 7.45pm and the weather again played a decisive role.

Cheetahs rider Jack Thomas said: “The boys were all ready after having three weeks off and we started to hit Newcastle pretty hard.

“The weather has put a big dampener on it, we weren’t expecting this.

“It’s a little bit disappointing, a few of us have travelled quite a way.

“We all want to ride, but safety’s the most important thing.”

It gave Thomas flashbacks to Cheetahs’ last outing at Sandy Lane before the break.

The 23-year-old said: “That was a terrible week, I raced here, Birmingham and Manchester with downpours and thunderstorms during the meeting.

“I don’t mind riding in the rain, it’s not the most enjoyable but all part of the job.”

A new date for the fixture will be announced in due course.

The postponement means Cheetahs stay ninth in the SGB Championship ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Redcar Bears.

Their next scheduled meeting at Oxford Stadium is on Wednesday, June 22, when they welcome Glasgow Tigers.

Cheetahs head north to face the Scottish club in the return fixture a week on Friday.