Ashworth faces biggest test

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RICKY Ashworth is settling into life at Berwick. He has scored double figures in each of the meetings he has finished with the Bandits so far this season, but he admits his biggest challenge is still to come.

And he is due to face that head on this week when he makes a first racing return at his former club Sheffield tonight (Thursday).

Ashworth, who has been nursing a lower back injury over the past few weeks, had intended riding at Owlerton last Thursday, despite still being in some discomfort.

But the Bandits’ League Cup meeting there was postponed because of rain and was hastily re-arranged for this week.

“I had intended riding,” he said, “but in a way I’m glad it was called off because it gave me another couple of days to get myself sorted for the weekend, and gave me another week before going back to Sheffield.”

Ashworth spent ten years with the Yorkshire club, and it came as a major surprise to many when he was not included in their starting line-up for 2012.

But the Tigers’ loss was the Bandits’ gain, and the former Premier League Riders’ Champion says that injury apart he is quickly settling into life with the border club.

After scoring 14 points, only missing out to a maximum when beaten by David Howe in heat one, Ashworth said after Saturday’s 52-38 win over Scunthorpe:

“Things are going really well for me at the moment. I had a tremendous start to the season with back to back maximums, but then I got injured at Newcastle and that sidelined me for a little while.

“I came back last weekend and scored well against Glasgow, but I aggravated the injury at Glasgow on the Sunday and I was in some discomfort again.

“The track was a little bumpy. There is no suspension on the bike so it’s your body that takes all the punishment. I could have sat out the meeting at Sheffield on Thursday but I was desperate to ride. As it was the meeting was postponed and in some ways I’m pleased about that.

“We’re back there this Thursday and I suppose there will be some pressure on me, because certain people have expectations of what I might do there.

“But at the end of the day I just have to treat it like any other meeting. I will prepare for it exactly the same as I always have.”

Another of Ashworth’s former Sheffield team-mates, Berwick skipper Lee Complin, will also have to ride through the pain barrier if he declares himself fit for the visit to the steel city.

That’s because he broke two fingers in the home win over Scunthorpe on Saturday, when he crashed heavily into the new polyfoam safety barrier.

The incident happened in his opening ride, when he chased visiting rider Michael Palm Toft down the home straight into the first bend.

Because they were so close Complin was forced to straighten up and he ploughed into the barrier, wrecking his bike in the process.

Some might say the barrier did it’s job, but Complin was examined at the scene by medical staff who spent around 15 minutes with him in the ambulance.

He could have withdrawn from the meeting, but the gritty Yorkshireman decided to ride on, and he emerged for his remaining three rides with his fingers strapped. He scored seven points, including a valuable heat win, and helped turn the meeting Berwick’s way, the Bandits eventually winning by 14 points.

Berwick face a busy schedule over the coming weekend, with the re-arranged meeting at Sheffield on Thursday being followed by a home match against the Tigers on Saturday, and a visit to Newcastle on Sunday. But for the home meeting against Sheffield and the away trip to take on the Diamonds, they must do it with only six riders, as Frenchman David Bellago is away representing his country in Germany in a World Team Cup qualifier.

Bellago has made a steady if unspectacular start to his Bandits’ career, following his controversial switch from Glasgow during the winter. But the teenager says he is keen to impress and wants to do better.

“I haven’t scored as many points as I would have liked,” he said. “That’s mainly been down to my gating, which I know I need to improve. This is my first full season in Britain and I am still learning, but I know I can do better.

“Berwick is a big, fast track and at times it can be scary, but I am getting used to it, and when I find the quickest way round hopefully the points will come.”