BERWICK picked up a welcome, but hard-earned victory over Newport at Shielfield on Saturday.
This was a must-win meeting for the Bandits, bearing in mind their league position, and in that respect it was a job well done.
But again they were left sweating on the fitness of one of their riders after Craig Branney crashed out on his first meeting back from injury.
He slammed into the safety fence at high speed in heat eight, and there was a lengthy delay (around 55 minutes) whilst he received trackside treatment before being transferred to a waiting ambulance and taken off to hospital with suspected shoulder injuries.
Berwick set off the match in determined fashion and in providing the first four race winners (Adrian Rymel, two for Michal Rajkowski and Paul Clews) they found themselves comfortably in front at 16-8.
As the riders quickly showed their liking for a track which was a marked improvement from the week before, Newport gradually clawed their way back into contention, however.
First of all Leigh Lanham won heat five. Rymel made it two out of two for Bandits in six, but a 5-1 from Craig Watson and Kyle Legault in seven closed the deficit to four at 23-19.
The visitors then took a 23-24 lead when they were awarded a 5-0 in heat eight. First of all Rajkowski was excluded for having two wheels on the grass as he cut the corner coming out of the fourth bend, and then Branney, in his first meeting back after more than a month out with a broken wrist, lost control and crashed heavilly into the safety fence on the first bend.
He was concussed and later complained of shoulder and body pains, and was taken to hospital for a check-up as to the extent of his injuries.
Things then went from bad to worse as far as Berwick were concerned over the next two heats when Newport picked up two race advantages to open up a 29-36 lead.
First of all Rymel broke the tapes and was handicapped 25m, which he was unable to make up in ten, and then, despite the efforts of Lee Complin, the Wasps took a 4-2 in 11.
But it was Berwick who finished the stronger of the two sides. Rajkowski picked up his third win of the night in 12, protected all the way by Clews for a 5-1. Complin had to give way to Lanham in 13, a race won by Rymel, and when Michal Makovsky and Rajkowski took a 4-2 from 14 it meant Bandits found themselves 42-41 in front and a last heat decider was on the cards.
Rymel popped out to make it four wins on the night and guarantee the victory, but all the action was behind him where Complin was again in the thick of the action, this time scraping the fence with Watson, to show that he is gradually getting back to his best.
Newport must be congratulated for the part they played in what was a very entertaining meeting.
As expected Watson and Lanham were the key men for the Wasps, but in new signing Robin Aspegren they seem to have unearthed a rider with a fair amount of potential.
Promoter John Anderson was a relieved man afterwards when he said: "We made heavy weather of that win, but of course the injury to Craig (Branney) didn't do anything to help.
"However, we cannot take anything away from Newport who contributed to a fine meeting.
"The track was also spot-on tonight after last week's hiccup, and that's a testament to the people we have here who expertly rectified things so well over the past seven days."
Anderson was so concerned at the way things had developed the previous week against Workington that he wrote in his programme notes:
"I must apologise for the meeting last weekend and the early delays whilst we got the track work done.
"It was not good for the fans and rest assured we have talked long and hard about it.
"As a club we accept plaudits for the good life and must stand up when we get it wrong.
"Basically, we tried something different with preparation pre-meeting and in this instance, due to various factors, it did not work.
"The fact of life is that we must progress from here. It can be a learning curve, but we know what we need to do and move forward."
Berwick - Rymel 13, Rajkowski 10, Clews 7+1, Makovsky 7+1, Complin 7+1, Mudgway 1, Branney 1. Newport - Watson 11, Aspegren 9, Lanham 7+1, Legault 6+2, Kurtz 5+1, Nilsson 5, Davies 0.