Berwick Bandits 56, Redcar Bears 40: BERWICK knew that nothing short of a full three-point victory over Redcar would give them any hope of extending their home season, and with a solid all-round team performance they managed to achieve precisely that.
In the main it was down to the superb form shown by Sebastian Alden, who raced to his third successive Shielfield maximum, and as he won most of his races by the proverbial mile it would be safe to say the Swede was in a class of his own.
But all seven Berwick riders were paid for at least one victory and the 16 point margin means they now know exactly what they have to do when they go to Glasgow this weekend if they want to qualify for the Challenge Trophy final.
In the early stages Redcar’s Ulrich Ostergaard and Carl Wilkinson looked as if they might prove to be a thorn in Berwick’s side.
The pair sped from the gate in the opening race and looked set for a comfortable 1-5, with Bandits’ guest Nick Morris falling. But Ostergaard suffered mechanical problems out in front and was forced to retire, and Morris, who had remounted, came through for a drawn heat.
With Berwick taking 5-1s from heats two and four they found themselves 10 in front at 17-7 and this enabled Ostergaard to go for double points as a tactical substitute in five. He and Wilkinson sped from the tapes and a 1-8 brought them right back in contention at 18-15.
But one-time Bandit Kevin Doolan was the only other Bears’ race winner, when also going for double points in heat 12, which meant the home riders enjoyed a relatively comfortable run through with 10 heat advantages on the night.
Alden was the man who deservedly took all the plaudits, but it was Morris, who has become something of a regular in the Borderers’ line-up in recent weeks, who provided the two most entertaining moves of the night when he twice drifted wide on the third bend before cutting back hard up the inside off the fourth to pass Matej Kus in heat six and Ostergaard in heat 13.
In the same race Alden blasted his way around Kus after missing the gate, but such was his confidence and speed that once in front he soon opened up a big gap.
Berwick now know that if they are to reach the final they must go to Glasgow this Sunday and avoid defeat by 11 points or less, otherwise Redcar will pip them on points difference.
Team manager Ian Rae said afterwards it was ‘not an easy ask,’ but on current form it was within their capabilities.
“It’s ironic that with all the injuries we have had this year we should now be running into some of our best form of the season,” said Rae.
“This might have been the last meeting of the season at Shielfield, we won’t know that until next Sunday. What we know is that we have to avoid defeat by less than 10 or 11 points, but with Sebastian Alden in the form he is in at the moment I think that’s doable.”
Alden has now chalked up three successive home maximums at Shielfield and after making it 15 races without defeat by an opponent he admitted: “I’m in the right place at the moment. For me speedway is 80 per cent in the head, and I’m in a very positive frame of mind at the moment.
“It would have been nice to find this kind of form earlier in the season, but that’s speedway.
“In all honesty I’m not doing a lot different. I only made one change to my set-up, a minor change with my sprockets, but it has made all the difference.”
Alden went to Sheffield on Sunday for the re-staging of the Premier League Riders’ Championship hoping to become only the third Berwick rider to lift the title in their 44 year history, following Wayne Brown in 1981 and Steve McDermott in 1983.
But he failed to score in his first two rides at Owlerton, effectively ending his challenge before it had begun.
He won his third and fourth races and by the end of the meeting had amassed seven points, but it was not enough to put him through to the latter stages.
Berwick: Alden 15 (max), Dyer 9+1, Barrett 8+2, Morris 8+1, Bellego 8, Aspegren 6, Jakobsen 2+1.
Redcar: Doolan 13, Wilkinson 9+1, Ostergaard 7+1, Kus 6, Summers 3+1, Mudgway 3, McKinna 0.