BERWICK BANDITS 46, EDINBURGH MONARCHS 44
Berwick edged a slender two point home victory over old rivals Edinburgh in an emotionally charged meeting at Shielfield on Saturday.
And the Bandits immediately dedicated the win their their stricken team-mate, Ricky Ashworth, who is laid up in hospital following his crash at Scunthorpe.
As always, when the Monarchs come visiting, a close meeting was in prospect.
But just what effect Ashworth’s injuries would have on the rest of the team remained to be seen.
In the early part of the meeting it looked as if Edinburgh might steal a march as they raced into a six point advantage at 12-18, with a 1-5 from Jozsef Tabaka and Theo Pijper in heat three, aided by a shed chain from leader Matty Wethers on the last lap, and two 2-4s in four and five overturning an early Berwick 7-5 lead after heat two.
But gradually Berwick started to get their act together and two eins from the impressive David Bellego, split by a Kozza Smith victory in heat seven, saw Bandits remain in contention at 22-26 after eight.
The turning point came in heat nine when Robin Aspegren and Wethers secured a 5-1 which levelled the scores up at 27-all, and when Bellego and Aspegren repeated the feat in 10 to put Bandits 32-28 in front, suddently the meeting started to take on a different complexion.
Craig Cook, fresh from his win in the Scottish Open the night before, had looked majestic in winning his opening two rides, but a flying start from Smith in 11 saw the Monarchs’ number one colours lowered for the first time, Nicki Barrett claiming the vital third place which stretched Berwick’s lead to 36-30.
Edinburgh are not title contenders for nothing, however, and they made a fight of it over the closing heats with Derek Sneddon, Cook and Tabaka taking successive chequered flags, two 2-4s taking the meeting into a last heat decider at 43-41.
Bellego, who has hit a rich vein of form lately, emerged as the match winner with a tapes to flag victory ahead of Abaka and Cook, although thr visitors left with a deserved losing bonus point for their efforts.
Team manager Ian Rae said: “We spoke to the lads after the Scunthorpe match and to a man they wanted to race tonight and dedicate their performances to Ricky.
“Aand what a performance it was to beat the favourites for the League title by two points in a last heat decider.
“Ricky will be very proud of his lads once he comes round and catches up on events … very proud indeed, as we all were of them tonight.”
Skipper Kozza Smith added: “We wanted to win this one for Ricky.
“There wasn’t a lot said by the lads in the pits beforehand, but we all knew what each other was thinking.
“We all knew we had a job to do, and thankfully we managed to do it, although Edinburgh made it tough for us, which we knew they would.
“We held the Speedway Riders Benevolent Fund annual collection tonight and hopefully some of that money can go to Ricky to help with his recovery.”