Ipswich Witches 28
by Keith Hamblin
at Shielfield Park
BERWICK turned in arguably their best performance of the year as they sent packing pre-season title favourites Ipswich at a rain-hit Shielfield in Saturday.
The Bandits were solid down the line from 1-7, and they effectively already had the meeting won by heat eight after turning in no fewer than five 5-1 heat maximums.
The Witches had already used both tactical rides available to them by this stage, and as these both yielded 5-1s for the home side the visitors had effectively shot their bolt and there was no way back.
Sebastian Alden, in only his second home meeting, showed that he is potentially the number one rider Berwick have been looking for, as he dropped only one point from his five starts, beaten by Kevin Doolan in heat ten.
But this was not a one-man show, as all the Berwick riders won, or were paid for at least two victories, new reserve Mitch Davey weighing in with a more than useful paid 11.
Ipswich, by comparison, struggled to match this all-round fire-power. Doolan got off to a poor start with only one point from his first two rides. He recovered with back-to-back victories in 10 and 11, but by then the meeting was already lost, as Lasse Bjerre, and to a lesser extent Taylor Poole, were the only visiting riders able to make any impression in the first half.
Having started out with only six riders, guest Joe Haines and reserve Jerran Hart failed to score a single point between them, and this was where the Witches suffered most.
After a relatively dry day, rain started to fall only a couple of hours before the scheduled start time and for a while there were fears the meeting might once again be lost to the weather.
But, thankfully, the teams stuck it out, and both sets of riders are to be congratulated for turning in such a good performance on a difficult track, as once the top wet surface was eroded they produced some good racing.
Alden forced his way past the fast-gating Bjerre in six, Lee Complin battled past Bjerre, riding as a tactical in seven, and then Davey just beat the Dane to the line after he suffered mechanical gremlins.
Jade Mudgway then went wheel to wheel with another tactical, Poole, for a lap and a half in a tremendous tussle in eight, and later in the meeting Complin was at it again as he passed Doolan to join Alden on another 5-1 in heat 13.
Overall, a very satisfying performance from the Bandits, who racked up their biggest points haul of the season to date, whilst Ipswich probably left feeling a little disappointed that they didn’t compete more.
Team manager Ian Rae, back in charge for the first time since his recent heart attack, said: “This was a superlative performance by our side against an excellent Ipswich team who really fought hard and made for some excellent racing despite the dank conditions.
“This side rode like a single unit tonight and they all deserve credit for a magnificent score. We have to thank the Ipswich team and management for helping us getting a great meeting on despite the weather, but overall this is where our season really started and that team spirit was magnificent to work with.”
Captain Lee Complin was another to pick up on the importance of having a solid 1-7.
“We really looked like a team tonight,” he said. “Everyone rode well, there was some tremendous racing, and the spirit within the camp was excellent. Everyone was helping each other out and it was a pleasure to be part of it.
“I think everyone will agree we haven’t had the best of starts to the season, but tonight we showed what we are capable of with seven riders out on track wanting to ride for the team. Hopefully we can now kick on from here, because I think this might be a fresh start for us and I think we are now capable of pushing on up the table.”
Mitchell Davey, who scored a creditable paid 11 from reserve in only his second meeting for the club, was also delighted with his performance.
“I think that has to rank as my best ever meeting in the Premier League,” he said.
“I was surprised when I first got the call asking me to ride for Berwick, because I haven’t raced all that much this year.
“I was coming in late and I didn’t really know what to expect, but tonight I felt a lot more on the pace and if I can keep on improving like that I will be more than happy.
“As an Australian I think people expect me to ride the bigger tracks well, so to have Berwick as a home track should suit me.
“Last year I broke my collarbone at Glasgow and things didn’t work out for me, but now that I have joined Berwick I am looking forward to the rest of the season. I haven’t set myself any targets, just to ride well and show some improvement.”
Berwick - Alden 13+1, Smith 9+2, Edberg 9+1, Complin 9+1, Franc 9, Davey 8+3, Mudgway 5+2; Ipswich - Doolan 10, Bjerre 8, Poole 5, Mills 5, Haines 0, Hart 0, Risager r/rep.