BERWICK BANDITS 48 IPSWICH WITCHES 45: Berwick, in their first home fixture for almost three weeks, returned to winning ways over Ipswich at Shielfield.
But they were pushed all the way by the Witches, who took the meeting to a last heat decider, and deservedly left with a losing bonus point.
Berwick were without Edward Kennett, who was away riding in a Grand Prix qualifying event, and drafted in Edinburgh’s Craig Cook as a replacement.
But the Monarch struggled to make the starts, and despite some hard riding, only managed one win from his four races, which was in stark contrast to visiting number one Ben Barker who went through the card with a superb 18-point maximum.
Barker made his intentions known from as early as heat one when he swept around the boards on the second bend for a comfortable victory.
He won another two races from the gate, but it was his exploits in heats 11 and 15 which really made him stand out from the rest of the field.
In 11 he missed the start, but forced his way from third to first past Kozza Smith, and in 15, when the Witches needed a 1-5 to steal all three match points,he went from last to first in a lap, winding it on to pass Smith and Robin Aspegren around the third and fourth bends in a move which won the genuine applause of every fan in the stadium.
Morten Risager had won his three previous races, but he was unable to match his team-mate’s endeavours and Berwick managed to hold out for what was a very welcome victory, albeit by a very narrow margin.
Bandits, despite Barker’s heat one win, made a good start to the meeting and two 5-1s and. 4-2 put them ten points up at 17-7 after only four races.
Barker, not surprisingly, was used as a double pointed tactical, and another good first and second bend saw him speed away, a third place for Cameron Heeps after Ritchie Hawkins was excluded for breaking the tapes, hauling the visitors back into contention at 19-14.
A 1-5 in heat seven when an over exhuberant Smith came to grief off the fourth bend chasing Risager, saw the deficit cut further to three at 24-21.
Wins by David Bellego and Robin Aspegren helped Berwick reestablish a 32-25 advantage, but with Barker (11 and 13), Risager (10) and Roan Tungate (12) all taking the chequered flag in the subsequent races, the meeting was simply too close to call.
Barker’s surge from the back in 15 rounded off a fantastic night for him and guaranteed a point for the visitors, but for Berwick this was all about getting back on track with a win, which from their point of view, they thankfully managed to achieve.
After the meeting manager Ian Rae was naturally pleased to see his side record a morale-boosting victory.
“We really needed that,” he said. “It was a close run thing, especially with Ben Barker in such fine form, but the important thing is that we build on this and try and get ourselves to a level where we know we deserve to be. Hopefully the riders will take some confidence from the result.”
Craig Cook 2,3,2,1* 8+1
David Bellego 1*,1,3,1* 6+2
Robin Aspegren 3,0,3,2,2 10
Matthew Wethers 1,2,1,2 6
Kozza Smith 3,Fx,2,2,1* 8+1
Paul Starke 3,1,R. 4
Nicki Barrett 2*,2*,1,1*, Fx 6+3
Manager Ian Rae
Ben Barker 3,6^,3,3,3 18
Ritchie Hawkins 0,E,0,1 1
Rohan Tungate 2,2*,0,3 7+1
Morten Risager 0,3,3,3 9
Leigh Lanham 0,2,2,0 4
Adam Ellis 0,0,0,N 0
Cameron Heeps 1,1,1,2,0,1 6
Manager Chris Louis
Referee Dave Dowling