Champions sent packing as Bandits hit form

Berwick Bandits53

Edinburgh Monarchs39

by KEITH HAMBLIN

BERWICK finally kickstarted their 2011 season when they beat reigning champions Edinburgh at Shielfield.

After what can only be described as an indifferent start to the season, the Bandits burst into life with a big win over the Monarchs.

But even then it took them three races to find their feet, as the visitors provided the first three race winners in Kevin Wolbert, guest reserve Kyle Howarth and the impressive Craig Cook.

But suddenly Berwick started taking their gating sweeties. They looked far more aggressive from the start and an amazing run of six 5-1s saw them establish a totally unexpected 39-15 lead.

Edinburgh, who had seen Matthew Wethers walk away from a spectacular crash on the opening bend of the first race when he clipped Wolbert’s back wheel and smashed through the safety fence, used Cook as a double-pointed tactical ride in heat seven when the score stood at 29-13.

But his bike failed to start and by the time a team-mate emerged with another machine it was obvious he was never going to beat the two minute warning.

This meant he had to go off a 15m handicap, and although he chased Tamas Sike all the way to the line in a tremendous tussle, he just couldn’t find a way past.

But suddenly, in heat ten, the tide started to turn, as the Monarchs hit back with three heat

advantages of their own, including two 1-5s in 10 and 11, and a 3-5 in 12 when Andrew Tully went for double points, which brought the score back to 44-30.

It was still a huge ask, but a losing bonus point was still up for grabs for the visitors.

Wolbert won his second race of the night in 13 but Kalle Katajisto, who had a poor night, was kept at the back, and when Howarth shed a primary chain when in a scoring position in 14 it meant the Bandits were guaranteed all three match points.

Cook then completed a fine night’s work by winning his fourth outing in 15 ahead of Berwick’s top two on the night, Lee Complin and Kozza Smith, who had earlier celebrated one race win when he leapt into the main grandstand and ‘high-fived’ some of the supporters. Who says there are no entertainers in speedway anymore?

After the meeting Berwick promoter John Anderson said: “I think that after the start we have made to the season it was important we got a good win tonight to reassure everyone.

“A result like this will certainly boost everyone’s confidence, and I think that is important, because next weekend we have three very difficult matches coming up, and if we hadn’t got a big win tonight the confidence may not have been so high.”

Berwick travel to Edinburgh for a quick-fire return visit to take on the Monarchs at Armadale on Friday. The West Lothian track has never been the happiest of hunting grounds for the Bandits, but after Saturday they may go there with some renewed optimism.

On Saturday Scunthorpe are the visitors to Shielfield. Berwick have already lost 56-39 to the Scorpions and on current form will be out for a revenge result. A lot may depend on who the visitors manage to secure as a guest for the injured ex-Bandit Carl Wilkinson, who broke his leg in two places last Friday and now faces several weeks on the sidelines.

Then on Sunday it’s up to Glasgow, where the Tigers, after a delayed start, are staging their first meeting of the season.

“Edinburgh’s never an easy place to go,” said Anderson, “but we will go up there and give it our best shot. We have one or two lads in the team who can ride Armadale well, so hopefully we will put up a good show.

“I would like to think we can keep our unbeaten home league run going against Scunthorpe, and on Sunday it would be nice if we could catch Glasgow cold. They haven’t raced at home yet, so fingers crossed.”

Berwick - Smith 11+2, Complin 11, Franc 8+2, Stichauer 7+2, Gjedde 6+1, Mudgway 5+3, Sike 5+2.

Edinburgh Cook 13, Wolbert 9+1, Tully 6+1, Howarth 4+1, Wethers 4, Katajisto 0, Morris 0.