Leicester Lions 49 Berwick Bandits 45
BERWICK BANDITS arrived at Leicester on Saturday night keen to bounce back from two consecutive away defeats over the previous 48 hours with a side that bore almost no resemblance to their initial starting seven back in March.
Already using rider replacement to cover Sebastian Alden’s races they had to book Nick Morris as a guest from Scunthorpe after skipper Lee Complin broke his collarbone the night before in a crash ironically with Morris.
Ricky Ashworth continued the list of crashes in Heat One going down as David Bellego led, but in the re-run without the excluded Ashworth, Linus Eklof kept Bellego in second for a home 4-2, but at least there was no injury to the Berwick number one.
New reserve Klaus Jakobsen clashed with Lewis Blackbird on lap one of Heat Two with the referee ordering a re-run with all four competitors, but with Robert Branford touching the tapes his 15 metre handicap did nothing to help prevent a home 5-1, putting Berwick 9-3 behind.
A 3-3 in the third with Robin Aspegren in second was followed up with Kauko Nieminen holding out Bellego for the full race in another home 4-2 with the score now 16-8, but Jan Graversen and Lasse Bjerre hammered away to lead Heat six early on with Bellego and Ashworth unable to get back set a solid home 5-1 in stone extending the gap to 21-9.
Swede Aspegren came out in Heat Six as a tactical ride for double points but Eklof did it again to hold the Bandit in second place and the race was shared 4-4 with the Bandits’ deficit still 12, meaning a second tactical ride could be used with guest Morris taking the double race in Heat Seven but Niemin spoiled the party to take the win restricting the doubled points to four, but as Aspegren came third the Bandits pulled themselves two points closer with the 3-5.
Come Eklof’s three points in Heat Eight the Bandits were still searching for their first heat winner of the night, and it failed to come in the ninth with Bjerre and Graversen holding Ashworth in third in another home 5-1 progressing the totals on to 36-22.
At last the Bandit’s fans had reason for jubilation when guest man Morris jetted from the gate in Heat 10 to record a superb win followed home by Aspegren after a fine battle with Eklof with a Berwick maximum 1-5 reducing the deficit to 10, and the fight-back continued in Heat 11 with Ashworth finally taking a win and Bellego holding third ahead of a vibrant Jari Makinen to take a 2-4 unexpectedly putting them in reach of taking one league point.
Morris and Branford added another four points to the revived Bandits total taking them now to within reach of an all out win in a remarkable comeback run, and with Ashworth battling hard at the front of Heat 13 with Nieminen and Morris taking another all-important third, with two races left on the card the score was 43-39.
Makinen and Graversen finally killed the dream of the win by taking Aspegren and Branford’s challenge to pieces in Heat 14 with a 5-1 to put the home side out of reach 48-40.
A last race Ashworth and Morris 1-5 won one very well deserved league point after a Titanic struggle with the final score 49-45.
Team manager Ian Rae said: “We were dead in the water half way through the meeting but credit to the lads who realised it wasn’t good enough and upped their game dramatically to nearly pull off the impossible. At least we saved face towards the end which takes the edge off the defeat.”