Leicester Lions 49, Berwick Bandits 45: A late fight back saw Berwick claw their way back into contention and finally take a losing bonus point from their meeting at Leicester on Saturday.
After a disastrous start to their three-match tour, which saw them lose both Seb Alden and Lee Complin to injury, not many people would have predicted the battle-scarred Bandits going to Leicester and running the Lions so close.
And in a meeting in which it took them ten heats before they recorded their first race winner, many in the Borderers camp, including their fans, must have thought another routine away defeat was on the cards.
At 36-22 after nine, and with the home side having produced all of the race winners, only the most optimistic would have predicted a late fight back.
But guest rider Nick Morris - in for the injured Complin - and Robin Aspegren started the ball rolling with a 5-1 for Berwick in ten.
Ricky Ashworth and David Bellego then took a 4-2 in 11, split by Kauko Nieminen and at 39-31 the spark was there.
Morris and Rob Branford followed this up with another advantage, 4-2 in 12, and with the gap down to six at 41-35 everyone started to believe that a point was there for the taking.
It got even better when Ashworth and Morris cut the deficit further to only four with another 4-2 in 13 (43-37), but when Aspegren and Branford conceded a 5-1 in 14, stretching the lead again to eight, it looked as if all the hard work might have been in vain.
Berwick needed a heat advantage in the last heat decider to guarantee the losing bonus point for the second night running, and it duly arrived when Ashworth, with his third successive race win, and Morris led Nieminen and former Bandit xxx Eklof home for a 5-1.
Earlier in the meeting Leicester had got off to a good start with Eklof winning three races in the first eight, Nieminen and Gravesen also piling up the points.
Berwick manager Ian Rae admitted later: “Without a race win in the first nine heats we were really up against it and not many people would have betted on us coming back from that.
“But Ricky (Ashworth) and our guest (Morris) started to dominate in the final part of the meeting and to come back in the way we did and take a bonus point was a tremendous achievement.”
Leicester - Nieminen 11, Gravesen 10+2, Eklof 10, Bjerre 7+1, Makinen 6, Blackbird 3+1, Karlsson 2. Berwick - Morris 15+1, Aspegren 10+2, Ashworth 9+1, Bellego 8, Branford 2+1, Jakobsen 1, Alden rider/rep
Still smarting after Thursday’s big defeat at Ipswich Berwick went into Friday’s Premier League match at Scunthorpe with a blinkered resolve – to make amends to the fans for the previous disappointment.
They out up a battling performance and led for a long period in the first half of the meeting, but circumstances, including a collarbone injury sustained by Lee Complin in the closing heats, dictated that the Bandits finally ran out of steam.
There was one consolation, however, in that they did manage to take the losing bonus point for keeping the final margin down to only six points.
An unexpected win in heat one for Scorpions’ reserve Gary Irving after a bizarre first start in which both Ricky Ashworth and Thomas Jorgensen looked to have barged the taped simultaneously, with the referee penalising both, Ashworth off 15 metres and Jorgensen being replaced by the winner Irving in the shared race, but come eat two Berwick new boy Klaus Jakobsen jetted away to take a fine win as part of a Bandits’ 2-4 to put the Borderer’s into the lead 5-7.
That advantage was maintained for two more races before David Bellego failed to beat the two-minute allowance and replaced by Jakobsen, but Nick Morris excelled to win over Ashworth in a home 4-2 that levelled the score up at 15-15.
The Scorpions took the lead in the sixth when Jorgensen flew like a rocket round Ashworth on the third bend to take a well deserved win, putting the home side two up.
Robin Aspegren then fought off some major competition from Josh Auty in seven, who in turn had to fend off some stiff attention from Lee Complin behind him in a Bandits’ 2-4 to level the meeting up again at 21-all.
The equilibrium remained until Ashworth made the gate in Heat 11 taking a solid three points again after fending off a four lap bombardment from Auty with Bellego similarly giving the Scorpion some stick from third place in a Berwick 2-4 to put them back in the lead 32-34.
At this stage Berwick fans must have been hoping the team, in the absence of the injured Seb Alden, could hold out for what would have been an unexpected victory.
But Complin was excluded in bizarre and controversial circumstances in 12 when Morris dived hard under him causing the Bandits’ skipper to high-side it heavily as a result whilst in the re-run the Jakobsen could not compete on level terms as the home side took a lead to be debated long into the night 37-35.
It subsequently emerged that Complin had sustained a collarbone injury which meant he took no further part in the meeting, also missing Saturday’s trip to Leicester.
Two expertly constructed 4-2s with big wins for Jorgensen and Michael Palm Toft respectively in heats 13 and 14 sealed success for the home side, despite Ashworth taking a huge win in the final race, but with Aspegren falling the six point deficit remained at 48-42.
Scunthorpe - Jorgensen 13+1, Morris 13, Auty 9, Toft 5+1, Irving 5, Campton 3, Howe r/rep. Berwick - Ashworth 13, Aspegren 11+1, Jakobsen 6+2, Complin 6+1, Bellego 5, Branford 1, Alden r/rep.