Bandits still looking for first points

Kevin Doolan chases down Aussie young gun Cameron Heeps, of Ipswich
Kevin Doolan chases down Aussie young gun Cameron Heeps, of Ipswich

Despite making changes to their team, Berwick’s poor run of form continued with home and away defeats against Ipswich and Scunthorpe at the weekend.

The losses stretched the Bandits’ winless run at the start of their Championship campaign to eight meetings, which means they are still searching for their first league points.

The Bandits, with Nick Morris, Jye Etheridge and Lee Payne in for the departing Claus Vissing, Dimitri Berge and Ryan Blacklock, lost 40-50 at home to the Witches on Saturday and 56-34 to the Scorpions on Sunday.

They were forced to race both meetings with National League guest riders at reserve in place of in-form Dany Gappmaier, who was competing in a European Championship qualifier, and this put them at a distinct disadvantage, although it is impossible to say how his inclusion might have affected the final results.

Berwick Bandits 40

Ipswich Witches 50

Berwick suffered their seventh successive league defeat as Ipswich left Shielfield with maximum points.

The new-look Bandits had been hoping to get one over the Witches and avenge their KO Cup first round aggregate defeat earlier in the season, but with reserve Dany Gappmaier missing, and Cameron Heeps enjoying an unexpected bumper night for the visitors, on this occasion the Suffolk side were just too strong.

Even without the injured Nico Covatti, Ipswich got their noses in front with a 1-5 from Danny King and the impressive Heeps in heat five, and after that they were never headed.

There was some controversy in the opening race when new Bandit Jye Etheridge fell, and then, when the visitors were seemingly set for an easy 1-5, King lost control, fell and was excluded.

This led to a 25-minute delay whilst the track was regraded, and gradually this resulted in better racing conditions.

Much of the entertainment was provided by the charging Lewis Bridger, who passed Heeps from the back in heat four and later King and Rory Schlein.

Kevin Doolan was the only other Bandit to really worry the Witches top three of Schlein, Heeps and King, but the closest they got was within four points at 25-29 after heat nine, when Doolan got the better of King in the re-run.

After that Ipswich reeled off three successive 2-4 heat advantages to put them 31-41 up and on the brink of victory.

King’s victory in 13 took them past the winning post and a 1-5 from Kyle Newman and Jack Parkinson-Blackburn in 14 meant they were guaranteed the full four match points.

Berwick achieved their only 5-1 courtesy of Doolan and Bridger in 15, but it was too little, too late and was scant consolation as far as the fans were concerned.

Team manager Gary Havelock said afterwards: “The track was very different to what it was last week, or to what the guys are used to, but it was watered early enough only for the wind to drop, the sea fret rolled in and it just didn’t dry, so it really caught the regular guys out.

“Credit to Ipswich who took the win they deserved, but Cameron Heeps really shocked us with his 13 points. He only got two last time! So that, and Dany’s (Gappmaier’s) enforced absence for the European Championship didn’t help. I mean, when your reserve gets paid for 17 the week before and then gets taken away you’ve got trouble.”

Berwick: Bridger 12+1, Doolan 11, Morris 7+1, Hopwood (guest) 3, Payne 3, Etheridge 2+2, Carr 2.

Ipswich: Schlein 15, Heeps 13+1, King 9, Newman 6+1, Parkinson-Blackburn 5+2, Mountain 2, Covatti - rider replacement.

Scunthorpe Scorpions 56

Berwick Bandits 34

Berwick’s eighth successive league defeat came at Scunthorpe on Sunday.

The Scorpions, who had won at Shielfield a week earlier, completed a quickfire double over the Bandits with a solid performance which saw them provide ten of the 15 race winners.

Skipper Kevin Doolan won two for Berwick, whilst Nick Morris, Lewis Bridger and Lee Payne also managed to take the chequered flag.

But this was a meeting Berwick were chasing from the moment the home side opened up a 9-3 lead after the first two races.

In Michael Palm-Toft, Ryan Douglas and new reserve signing Steffan Nielsen, they had three riders who between them scored as many points as the entire Berwick team put together.

A 1-5 from new signings Payne and Jye Etheridge gave Berwick some hope as they closed the gap to 26-22 after heat eight, but after that the Lincolnshire outfit weighed in with five heat advantages in the final seven heats to record an emphatic victory.

Scunthorpe: Palm-Toft 13, Douglas 11+1, Nielsen 10+2, Auty 8+1, Kerr 7+1, Bailey 4+2, Wilkinson 3+1.

Berwick: Doolan 9, Morris 8, Bridger 6, Payne 5, Etheridge 2+1, Carr 2+1, Morley (guest) 1.