BERWICK BANDITS 51 SHEFFIELD TIGERS 42: Berwick got their Premier League campaign off to a winning start against Sheffield, but if the visitors had had stronger riders at reserve they might well have taken something from this meeting.
That’s because the Tigers’ reserve pairing of Jake Knight and Damien Koppe scored only two points between them as opposed to paid 17 from the Bandits’ duo of Nicki Barrett and Alex Edberg.
On another night when gating was all important Simon Stead reigned supreme. He dislocated his shoulder only a week ago, but was in unbeatable form, winning the majority of his races by the proverbial mile as he scorched to a 15-point maximum.
Ricky Wells provided some good back-up, but apart from Joe Haines, who won one race, the Yorkshiremen didn’t have enough strength in depth to see this one through.
Berwick, on the other hand, were more solid down the line, without being overly impressive.
They had no answer to Stead, or Wells for some of the time, but they had enough in the tank to see off the Tigers and claim the full three points on offer, although that was in doubt right up to the final heat when Kozza Smith had to produce one of the rides of the night to pass Wells and secure a big enough winning margin.
Up to that stage Sheffield looked as if they might be capable of taking the losing bonus point, but they had the wind taken out of their sails in heat 14 when Richard Hall came a cropper, sustaining an upper arm injury when he smashed into the back of Koppe who fell in front of him on the third bend as he tried to go around the outside of Barrett.
Berwick were without injured number one Ricky Ashworth and used former Bandit Kevin Doolan as a guest. He played his part with two victories, which along with a 5-1 from Barrett and Edberg in heat two, helped the home side establish a ten point lead by heat eight.
Wells won as a double pointed tactical in nine and with Stead in such good form they were always in with a chance of clawing back some of the deficit.
A 1-5 from Stead and Wells in 13 gave Sheffield some hope, but the outcome of the meeting hinged on heats 12 and the re-run of 14 when Smith and Edberg, and Matty Wethers and Barrett raced to 5-1s which closed the meeting out.
K Doolan 1*,3,3,0,2 9+1
D Bellego 2,1,3,F 6
3.Kozma Smith 3,1*,2,3,1* 10+2
Matthew Wethers 1,2,1*,3 7+1
R Aspegren 1*,2,2,1 6+1
A Edberg 2*,0,0,2* 4+2
D Barrett 3,2,2*,N2,2* 9+2
Manager Ian Rae
S Stead © 3,3,3,3,3 15
F Albin 0,0,1,1 2
J Haines 2,3,1*,1 7+1
R Hall 0,1,2,Fn 3
R Wells 3,2,6^,2*,0 13+1
J Knight 1,0,N,0,0,1 2
D Koppe F,N2,0,0,Fx 0
Manager Dave Hoggart
Referee Jim McGregor