Late fight-back earns Bandits a battling bonus

Workington Comets47

Berwick Bandits46

by Keith Hamblin

BERWICK put up a brave challenge, but just went down to a narrow one point defeat at Derwent Park on Monday.

The Bandits staged a tremendous second half fight-back, coming from 12 points down at one stage, but in the end they had to settle for a losing bonus point.

They went into the meeting without reserve Jade Mudgway, who was unable to ride because of a foot injury he picked up at Shielfield on Saturday, and his place was taken by guest rider Adam McKinna, who is himself a one-time Bandits’ rider.

McKinna scored two points, but this was in stark contrast to Comets’ guest reserve Simon Lambert, whose 11 paid 13 haul proved to be the difference between the two sides.

James Wright, in what might prove to be his last meeting for Workington, was determined to go out on a high, and he joined Lambert at the top of the scorecharts on 11+1, which included two paid victories.

With Rusty Harrison also impressing early on, the Comets surged into a 12 point lead at 33-21 when he and Tom Topinka took a 5-1 in heat nine, and at that stage there only looked to be one winner.

But inspired by a Josef Franc double pointed victory as a tactical ride in heat 10, the Bandits started to claw back the deficit.

They produced five successive race winners in Franc, who was unbeaten in his first four outings, Alden (twice) and Smith, which meant they went into a last race decider just one point adrift at 44-43,

Wright made the gate in the vital heat 15 and led from start to finish, with Alden and Franc tucking in behind.

Ian Rae said shortly afterwards: “The lads had the Comets worried come the last few heats and to go away one point down is a good reward for the effort the Bandits put in on track tonight although to be so close and not get the win is naturally a disappointment.”

Workington - Wright 12, Lambert 11+2, Harrison 10+2, Topinka 7+1, Lawson 7, Pickard 1; Berwick - Franc 16+1, Alden 10, Lindgren 7, Smith 6, Complin 4, McKinna 2, Davey 1.

Berwick Bandits 40

Workington Comets 34

THIS was the first leg of the Bank Holiday Weekend double header, but unfortunately it had to be cut short because of the weather.

Rain clouds had been gathering throughout the day and a mid-meeting downpour meant racing had to be curtailed after heat 12, by which time the track was very wet and heavy.

However, the result stood, which meant the Comets left Shielfield with a losing bonus point - and the man they had to thank for that was none other than Berwick’s own Kozza Smith who came to grief on the last bend whilst leading the final race.

Smith had been so far in front he had time to remount and finish ahead of third placed team-mate Mitchell Davey, but the win which was handed to Tomas Topinka meant Workington, after twice being ten points behind, managed to keep the final losing margin down to six.

With rain threatening early on, the meeting started in dry conditions and it was the Bandits, with some good passing from the busy Jade Mudgway and Sebastian Alden (who went from third to first in heat six) which helped establish a 23-13 advantage.

Workington, who had been forced to abandon plans to reshuffle their side due to red tape, then introduced Rusty Harrison as a double pointed tactical ride in seven.

He made the gate and was a long way in front of Berwick captain Lee Complin, but with the bit between his teeth the Bandit stormed from more than 30 yards back for a fine victory.

Comets’ new recruit John Oliver then came from behind to pass Mudgway on the last bend in heat eight, a 1-5 with Richard Lawson reducing the gap to four again at 27-23.

But as the rain started to fall gating became all important as riders found it difficult to see, let alone stay on their bikes.

Sebastian Alden, who had won his first two races, found himself at the back in ten, but on the last lap he passed both Harrison and Topinka for a 5-1 with Ludvig Lindgren, which re-established a ten point gap at 36-26.

By this stage it was clear the riders were growing increasingly concerned at the conditions.

A 1-5 from James Wright and Oliver in 11 saw the score move on to 37-31, and when Smith made the gate in the re-run of 12, after Gary Irving had fallen on the third bend, it looked as if the Bandits were going to take all three match points.

However, on the very last bend Smith slid off, letting Topinka through.

As soon as the riders crossed the finishing line referee Darren Hartley called a halt to proceedings.

Berwick - Alden 8+1, Smith 8, Lindgren 7+2, Complin 7, Mudgway 7, Franc 2, Davey 1. Workington - Lawson 8, Oliver 7+2, Harrison 7+1, Topinka 7+1, Wright 4, Irving 1, Kildemand rider rep.

* THIS weekend Berwick take on Plymouth Devils at home in the second phase of Premier League fixtures.

The club is also planning ahead for the traditional end of season Bordernapolis individual, last year won by current captain Lee Complin.

This year’s event is being held on Saturday, October 1 and confirmed riders so far include American Ryan Fisher, who now rides for Coventry, and Australian and former Bandit Kevin Doolan.

The club are now on the look-out for meeting, heat and rider sponsors.