Berwick Bandits 48
Newport Wasps 42
by Keith Hamblin
at Shielfield Park
BERWICK brought the curtain down on their 2011 season with a hard fought, but well deserved win over Newport at Shielfield on Friday.
For obvious reasons this was always going to be something of a needle match, but Charlie Gjedde’s non-appearance due to an injury took some of the sting out of the Wasps’ challenge.
But in guest Kevin Doolan, himself a one-time Bandit, the visitors fielded a worthy replacement, and his four paid victories, which might have been more but for an engine failure when leading heat one, kept the Welsh side in contention right up to the final heat.
Berwick were also short-handed with broken toe victim Seb Alden being replaced by David Howe, whilst rider replacement operated for Alex Edberg, who was unable to make his expected home return after suffering a reaction to climbing back into the saddle on the club’s three match southern tour a week earlier after more than three months out through injury.
The unusual Friday race night was called for as this meeting had previously been postponed twice because of the weather.
Newport were also racing at home on Saturday, and as the season was due to end on Monday (October 31) it left the club with no alternative but to apply for a different race night.
Newport looked as if they were going to get off to a flying start as Doolan and Robin Aspegren sped from the tapes, but Doolan’s bike died underneath him allowing Howe through for an unexpected win and a 1-5 turned into a 4-2.
Jade Mudgway then went from third to first to win heat two whilst Josef Franc and Lee Complin both gated well and won in three and four.
A Doolan victory in five kept the deficit down to only two points at 16-14 and with the next three races all shared, Leigh Lanham, Complin and Doolan taking the chequered flags, it was obvious a close finish was in prospect.
Berwick made a breakthrough in nine when Franc and the previously pointless Linus Eklof raced to the first 5-1 of the night and at 30-24 the Bandits had some breathing space.
Howe, who had been such a hit with Berwick on their tour the week before, continued to impress with another win in ten, but Newport are not the form team in the league for nothing and they showed they weren’t prepared to give up without a fight when Lanham and Doolan hit the front and took a 1-5 in 11 which brought it back to 34-32.
This produced one of the closest finishes to a race ever seen at Shielfield with Complin chasing all the way to the flag, the first three riders going across the line almost together in what some might refer to as a photo-finish.
With the pressure on, Eklof responded with a tapes to flag victory in 12, Mudgway coming through from the back for a 4-2 which put Berwick four ahead at 38-34.
Doolan again showed his class in 13 by holding off the never-say-die antics of the chasing Complin, who managed to squeeze past Lanham when a 1-5 looked to be on the cards, but at 40-38 it was still too close to call.
Another 3-3 in 14, won by Franc, took the meeting into a last heat decider.
Berwick opted for Franc and Complin, Newport for Doolan and Lanham, but it was the Bandits’ pair who produced a fantastic first and second bend, Complin cutting back up the inside after starting off gate four, and both came through from the back for a 5-1 which guaranteed victory, although the visitors left with a losing bonus point to their credit.
After the meeting, Berwick team manager Ian Rae said: “Well, that’s it, and it’s a relief just to get to the end of the season. At one stage we thought we might not be able to race this meeting because of the fixture congestion at the end of he season, but thankfully it all worked out.
“Unfortunately Charlie Gjedde was unable to ride tonight, and that would probably have added some extra spice to proceedings.
“But the sides went out and put on a good show. There was some terrific racing,particularly from Lee (Complin) and once again we are indebted to our guest, David Howe, who has been fantastic for us of the past two weekends.
“Roll on 2012 and the new polyfoam safety fence!”
Berwick - Complin 13, Franc 13+1, Mudgway 8+2, Howe 8, Eklof 5+1, Davey 0, Edberg rider/rep; Newport - Doolan 12+1, Lanham 10, Aspegren 8+2, Mellgren 8+1, Jones 2+2, Kurtz 2, Doyle rider/rep.