By Keith Hamblin
BERWICK welcomed league newcomers Plymouth to Shielfield Park for the first time in 42 years on Saturday, and in so doing enjoyed their biggest win of the season.
The Devils last raced at the border track back in 1969 when the Bandits won 55-22, and it was obvious from an early stage in this meeting that the outcome was likely to be the same.
That’s because the visitors only had Ben Barker as an out and out threat.
He won four of his five starts and was only denied a maximum by Berwick skipper Lee Complin in what turned out to be the race of the night in heat 11.
Plymouth were also not helped by injuries to two of their riders - Lee Smart and Jesper Kristiansen - who both crashed out of the meeting in spectacular style in heat six.
Berwick were already 21-12 up at this stage, Barker having just won heat five as a double pointed tactical ride.
Kristiansen made the gate ahead of Berwick’s Charlie Gjedde, but as he went up the back straight on the first lap he clipped the safety fence, wiping out team-mate Smart in the process. As Kristiansen thankfully walked away after smashing into the boards, Smart cartwheeled down the track with his bike following in close quarters.
Smart was taken to hospital for a precautionary check-up, but Kristiansen was also withdrawn from proceedings, which ut added pressure on the Devils’ tail, James Cockle in particular, who was forced to take a full quota of seven rides.
Cockle emerged as Plymouth’s only other race winner when he won heat eight ahead of Kozza Smith. Jason Bunyan, a known track specialist, didn’t really provide the back-up many thought he would, and his scoring was also hampered by a high sped crash when he smashed through the safety fence on the opening turn of heat ten, but thankfully, he too was able to walk away unscathed.
For Berwick, with Tamas Sike back in the team, it was a bumper pay night with Complin, Smith, Gjedde and Josef Franc all dropping just one point apiece, although the Dane was perhaps slightly fortunate in this respect as he twice won re-runs after being beaten out of the gate in the initial races by Kristiansen and Bunyan before their crashes.
Jade Mudgway was also always in the points with a paid 15 haul from his six starts.
After Barker won the opening heat Berwick reeled off three 5-1’s in a row to establish an 18-6 advantage.
Barker won on double points in five, but two 4-2s saw Bandits go 29-16 ahead. Cockle’s win in eight gave Plymouth their only true race advantage of the night, and when Berwick took three more 5-1s in the next four races, it was simply a case of how many the home team would win by.
Barker, who looked the most stylish rider on show, bounced back from his defeat by Complin in 11 to win in 13 and 15, but one rider doesn’t make a team and Berwick ran out comfortable victors.
Berwick - Complin 13, Smith 12+1, Mudgway 11+4, Franc 10+3, Gjedde 9+1, Sike 4+1, Stichauer (r/rep). Plymouth - Barker 17, Cockle 7, Bunyan 5, Simmons 2+1, Stephens 1, Smart 1, Kristiansen 1.