Berwick’s season of misery continued at the weekend when they lost three meetings in three days, but, more importantly, also lost another two riders to injury.
The cruel hand of fate struck again to deny them of the services of Australian duo Nick Morris and Jye Etheridge.
Morris suffered concussion when he was involved in a first race smash at Peterborough on Friday. As a result of his head injury he was immediately withdrawn from the meeting and was automatically sidelined under the sport’s guidelines.
This meant he subsequently missed the home meeting against Redcar on Saturday and Sunday’s visit to Scunthorpe. He will also miss this Sunday’s away trip to face local rivals Newcastle.
Then on Saturday, Etheridge was taken from the track by stretcher after a heat 11 spill with Redcar’s Jonas B. Andersen.
He was taken to hospital by ambulance with suspected rib and lung injuries, but it was later revealed he was not as seriously hurt as first thought.
However, he too missed the trip to Scunthorpe on Sunday.
“It seems that every week we are having to book one guest or another to cover for an injured rider,” said team manager Gary Havelock.
Ironically, Berwick had only just been forced into making an emergency signing in the shape of Joe Jacobs, who was introduced as a 28-day cover for Lewis Bridger, who has still not recovered from the back injury he sustained in a crash at Shielfield over three weeks ago.
Jacobs made his debut at Peterborough when he scored five (paid six) points.
Reserve Lee Payne is also still sidelined with a shoulder injury which meant he missed all three weekend meetings.
“It’s hard to keep up sometimes,” said Havelock. “In fact it is a nightmare scenario, but that’s the nature of the beast.”
The injury to Nick Morris in the opening race, and his subsequent withdrawal from the meeting, immediately put Berwick on the back foot at the East of England Showground.
But despite this, and with another makeshift side, the Bandits still managed to make a go of it and the Panthers, somewhat unconvincingly, emerged as victors.
The side was held together by David Howe, skipper Kevin Doolan and reserve Jye Etheridge, all of who won a race.
But the home side were always in the ascendency and Jack Holder raced to five straight wins for an unbeaten 15-point maximum.
Panthers’ guest Rory Schlein was also unbeaten in his first four rides and with Paul Starke and Ulrich Ostergaard both winning two races, the Bandits were always up against it.
“The injury to Nick is another big blow,” said manager Gary Havelock afterwards. “It is like a real kick in the guts for us.
“On the positive side the team rallied well under the circumstances and put on a decent performance.”
Peterborough: Holder 15, Schlein 12+1, Ostergaard 9+1, Starke 8+2, Bacon 5+1, Hall 2, Wilson-Dean 2.
Berwick: Howe 11+1, Doolan 11+1, Etheridge 8+1, Jacobs 5+1, Gappmaier 3+1, Bowtell 1+1, Morris 0 (withdrawn).
Berwick slipped to another home defeat and ultimately lost another rider to injury when they faced Redcar at Shielfield.
Just 24 hours after losing Nick Morris to concussion, and with Lewis Bridger and Lee Payne both sidelined, it was another patched-up Bandits’ side which went to the tapes to face the Bears.
Despite the efforts of guest Josh Grajczonek, who dropped only one point from his four starts, Berwick just could not get into the match.
And disaster struck in heat 11 when Jye Etheridge took a heavy tumble with Jonas B. Andersen on the first turn, the result being that the young Australian was stretchered from the track and taken by ambulance to hospital with suspected rib and lung injuries.
By that stage Berwick were already staring defeat in the face. They trailed 27-35 after heat ten, having already used David Howe as a double-pointed tactical ride in heat nine, when he took four points.
Joe Jacobs, signed as 28 day cover for Bridger, made his home debut and guest reserve Alfie Bowtell made up the Bandits’ septet, but they fell behind to a 1-5 and two 2-4s in heats two, three and four, which put them on the back foot.
Grajczonek, Kevin Doolan and David Howe all managed to win races, but the fact was the home side just could not gain any heat advantages.
And when the Bears took a 2-4 in the re-run on 11, remarkably with Andersen taking the chequered flag just minutes after being involved in the spill with Etheridge, Redcar were on the verge of victory.
The win was confirmed in the very next race when ex-Bandits Coty Garcia and the all-action Ben Barker took a 1-5 which out them in an unassailable position.
Berwick actually had to wait until heat 15 to gain their only true heat advantage of the night, although Bowtell was unlucky in heat 14 when he punctured on the run-in to the line, enabling Danny Ayres to pass him for third spot.
Berwick: Grajczonek 11, Howe 11, Doolan 10, Jacobs 3+1, Gappmaier 3, Etheridge 1, Bowtell 1.
Redcar: Wright 12, Barker 10+1, Andersen 9+1, Garcia 6+2, Ayres 6+1, Palm Toft 5+2, Perks 4+1.
A battle-scarred and make-shift Berwick side put on a better showing when they travelled to take on fellow strugglers Scunthorpe on Sunday.
The Bandits, with three guests, ran the Scorpions close, to the extent that they went into the final race still with an outside chance of picking up a losing bonus point.
However, after an epic battle, Josh Auty finally got the better of Berwick guest Kyle Newman in heat 15, and with Michael Palm Toft edging out David Howe for third, it was the home side who took the spoils to move them seven points clear in the basement stakes.
There was nothing between the sides in the early exchanges, with the teams sharing five 3-3’s to make it 15-15 after five heats.
Berwick actually moved 17-19 ahead with a Kevin Doolan - Rob Branford 2-4 in six, after Palm-Toft was handicapped 15m for touching the tapes, but he produced a barnstorming ride to make up the deficit and finish second, pushing Doolan all the way to the line.
After home rider Ryan Burton was withdrawn from the meeting with a broken collarbone, Scunthorpe regained the initiative with a 5-1 in eight (25-23). They then moved five points clear at 32-27, but Howarth won his second race of the night in 11 for Berwick.
David Howe also won heat 14 for the Bandits, but the Scorpions managed to keep them at arm’s length, in the main due to the form of Auty, Carl Wilkinson and Palm-Toft.
Scunthorpe: Auty 13, Wilkinson 12+3, Palm-Toft 10, Douglas 7, Kerr 4+1, Arnio 3+1, Burton 0.
Berwick: Howarth 12, Doolan 7, Howe 7, Gappmaier 6+1, Branford 4+1, Cupitt 2+2, Jacobs 2+1.
There is no meeting at Shielfield this Saturday (July 1) but the Bandits will be in action at Newcastle on Sunday evening with a derby clash against the Diamonds. With so many riders out injured, the Berwick management will be working overtime this week to line up guest replacements.