BERWICK BANDITS 56, PLYMOUTH DEVILS 37
Despite finishing the meeting with only five riders, Berwick managed to achieve their biggest win of the season when they beat a disappointing Plymouth at Shielfield on Saturday.
The Bandits lost skipper Kozza Smith mid-meeting with a balance problem caused by a possible middle ear infection, whist reserve Nicki Barrett crashed out with a shoulder/collarbone injury whilst trying to avoid the fallen Chris Schramm.
Plymouth, with the exciting young Mikkel Bech in their line-up, arrived with many people predicting a close encounter.
But the World U21 contender, who has taken the Premier League by storm in recent weeks, didn’t hit the heights expected of him and some superb riding from Bandits’ Matty Wethers, who raced to his first paid maximum in Berwick colours, David Bellego, Robin Aspegren and star guest Ben Barker, meant the home side sent the Devils home a well beaten side.
Bellego and Barker set the tone with a 5-1 in the opening race, Barrett won heat two and Wethers heat three, which meant Berwick opened up an early 12-6 advantage.
The experienced Mark Lemon showed some resistance by winning heat four, but in five Wethers and Aspegren both showed determination to pass Todd Kurtz, and when Bellego did the same against Lemon to join Barker for another 5-1 in six the Bandits suddenly found themselves 25-11 in front.
Bech was used as a tactical ride in seven, but both he and Corey Gathercole were beaten out of the start by Smith.
However, it appeared the Berwick captain was struggling for some reason, and as he slowed both visiting riders passed him for a 1-8 which brought it back to 26-19.
Smith was then ruled out of the meeting after seeking medical advice and when Barrett crashed out in the very next race, trying to go around the outside of the fallen Schramm on the third and fourth bends, suddenly the Bandits looked to be up against it.
There was a lengthy delay whilst an ambulance arrived to take Barrett to hospital, but on the resumption Berwick rolled their sleeves up and a 4-2 and two 5-1s saw them extend their lead to 40-23 after ten.
Berwick’s determination was never more evident than when Wethers and Aspegren both forced their way past Lemon in nine.
Barker and Bellego recorded their third 5-1 of the night in ten, but a strange decision by the Plymouth management here was to use Gathercole as a second tactical ride, when in the next race the Bandits were forced to only go with reserve Paul Stake against Kurtz and guest Ricky Wells, and the visitors raced to a 1-5.
A win by Aspegren ahead of Bech in 12 put Berwick within touching distance of victory at 44-31 and this was confirmed in 13 when Barker produced the ride of the night in 13, turning on the style to blast his way past both Lemon and Wells to complete his second successive maximum at Shielfield in recent weeks.
Two wins by Wethers in 14 and 15 saw the Aussie also complete his full house, but unfortunately Bellego just missed out on his when he was beaten into third place by Bech in 15.
After the meeting Berwick manager Ian Rae was naturally delighted with the win. “We showed great determination tonight,” he said, “especially after going down to five men.
“David and Robin both rode well, as did our superb guest Ben Barker. But I was particularly pleased for Matty, who achieved his first ever paid maximum.
“He rode particularly well tonight and showed just why we signed him in the first place.”
Barker, who also went through the card against Berwick for Ipswich a fortnight earlier later Tweeted: “Wow, I love Berwick.”
However, not surprisingly, Rae’s thoughts were with his two ‘injured’ riders.
“Nicki has a possible shoulder or collarbone injury and is away to hospital to have it x-rayed,” he said. “Kozza is also away to have some tests done which means both are doubts for tomorrow’s meeting at Glasgow.”
Ben Barker 2*,3,3,3 11+1
David Bellego 3,2*,3,2*,1 11+2
Robin Aspegren 1,2*,3,3 9+1
Matthew Wethers 3,3,2*,3,3 14+1
Kozza Smith © 2,1 3
Paul Starke 0,0,1,1,0,2* 3+1
Nicki Barrett 3,1*,Fn 4+1
Ricky Wells 0,0,2*,2 4+1
Todd Kurtz 1,1,2,3,0 7
Mikkel Bech 2,6^,0,2,2 12
Cory Gathercole 0,2*,1^,1 4+1
Mark Lemon 3,1,1,1* 6+1
Jake Anderson 2,0,0,1* 3+1
Chris Schramm 1*,X,Fx,F 1+1
Referee Margaret Verdy