SHEFFIELD TIGERS 54 BERWICK BANDITS 42: Berwick Bandits finally managed to race their twice-postponed League Cup match at the Sheffield Tigers last night when the rain held off this time, but it was a depleted septet of Bandits who had the tough task at Owlerton Stadium.
With the match being a rescheduled meeting Sebastian Alden had to put his Swedish fixture first hence his absence, but the only cover allowed was a National League rider and youngster Ashley Morris stood in whilst the injured Alex Edberg’s reserve spot was taken by guest Robert Branford.
It was a long-awaited return to the scene of his previous decade of success for Berwick’s Ricky Ashworth who had several points to prove to is old club, but it was former Bandit Josef Franc who jetted away in Heat One to beat Ashworth into second place in the fastest time of 2012 in a shared 3-3.
Ashworth however rapidly improved and simply got better with every outing reminding the Sheffield bosses exactly what they were missing from their own side in 2012.
With the Tigers having Argentinean star Emiliano Sanchez at reserve and Joe Haines hitting the high scores of late, Jason King and reserve guest Branford had no ammunition against the home maximum which pushed the Bandits into a four point deficit, 8-4.
A Tiger’s 5-1 in the fourth was reversed by an astonishing win from Lubos Tomicek in Heat Five, followed closely home by Ashworth leaving Chris Schramm and Richard Hall well to the rear and keeping the gap at four, 17-13.
Franc and Hugh Skidmore bounced another home maximum into the pot in Heat Six over Berwick’s vulnerable guest pairing of the wild Branford and, to be fair pretty impressive Morris whilst in Heat Eight Tomicek suffered an engine failure in a race with King in third to give the Tigers another 5-1 which extended the score to 30-18.
After the ninth the Tigers moved a further four points ahead as again the guest due failed to dent the home side’s fire power which led to the Bandits’ team manager calling into play a tactical double ride for skipper lee Complin (another who was rapidly improving as the meeting rolled on) in Heat 10 which he won easily but as David Bellego had already been excluded from the race for falling the advantage was restricted to a 3-6 result.
Ashworth was then named as Berwick’s second and final tactical ride in Heat 11 with the same 3-6 result coming as Tomicek ended at the back which reduced the gap to 10, 41-31.
The match was taken out of the Bandits’ reach after a Sanchez/Schramm 4-2 in the 12th and a Heat 13 3-3, despite it being won well by Ashworth up front after a titanic battle with Franc, but the score, with two races to go was an unassailable 48-36, but for good measure Ashworth and Complin took a fine 1-5 in the final race of the night.
Stand-in team manager on the night for Berwick, Dick Barrie was satisfied with his team’s performance saying: “I don’t think there were any more points we could have squeezed out of this match tonight and going down at Owlerton by only 12 points with two young guests in our side wasn’t bad at all.
“Ricky and Lee did as expected and improved all the way and our guest from the National League, Ashley Morris really did himself a lot of credit with some good racing. Robert Branford, our other guest tonight was a unpredictable but generally not too far off the pace and Jason King was a wee bit unfortunate to be passed after he’d done the work early on and was certainly not off the pace.
“Our current concern is with our Frenchman David Bellego who crashed in Heat 10 with the doctor ruling him out of the rest of the meeting and we’ll be checking in with him over Friday to see if he can or not make the team in our match at Edinburgh on Friday night. If he can’t make it we’ll have to use rider-replacement to cover the young lad’s races.”
Sheffield Tigers 54 - Josef Franc 3,3,1*,2,1 = 10+1; Huge Skidmore 0,2*,3,2 = 7+1; Chris Schramm 1*,1,2*,1 = 5+2; Richard Hall © 2,0,3,2* = 7+1; Ricky Wells 3,0,2,1* = 6+1; Joe Haines ® 3,3,1*,3,0 = 10+1; Emiliano Sanchez ® 2*,2*,2*,3 = 9+3.
Berwick Bandits 42 - Ricky Ashworth 1*,2*,6^,3,3 = 15+2; Lubos Tomicek 2,3,R,0 = 5; Lee Complin © 3,1*,6^,2,2* = 14+2; David Bellego 0,2,Fx,N = 2; Ashley Morris (guest) 1,1,1,0 = 3; Robert Branford (guest) ® 0,0,0,0,R = 0; Jason King ® 1,0,1,1 = 3.