Berwick Bandits 47-43 Ipswich Witches
Berwick eked out a slender four point advantage with a KO Cup first leg victory over Ipswich at Shielfield. But will it be enough to defend in the second leg at Foxhall Heath?
It was two unusual looking sides which went to the tapes for this first round encounter, with both teams utilising guests and the rider replacement facility due to injuries and other commitments.
Two of the riders on opposing sides, Ben Barker and Ritchie Hawkins, both enjoyed productive evenings, but it was the form of guests Richie Worrall (riding for Berwick in place of Claus Vissing), and Richard Lawson (taking the place of Witches’ Danny King) who probably contributed the most telling performances, which meant the meeting remained close throughout.
Worrall won four of his six races for Bandits, whilst Lawson won his first three for the visitors, and was only denied a fourth when he was passed by Barker off the last bend in heat 13 when his engine started to tighten, which prevented him from making a heat 15 appearance.
Barker, meanwhile, stormed to five paid wins, and dropped only one point all evening, when he was beaten by Lawson in heat one, whilst Hawkins was something of a surprise packet, winning his first three outings, which gave Ipswich a good olatform on which to build.
This was a meeting which was close throughout, with never more than two points separating the sides until heat 14, when Berwick managed to open up a four-point gap.
The only two 5-1s of the night came in heats three and four, with Ipswich immediately hitting back through Hawkins and Rohan Tungate after Worrall and Barker had taken maximum points for the home side.
There then followed a series of five successive 3-3’s, which meant Ipswich remained two in front at 26-28 after nine.
Berwick then gained a slender advantage by taking four 4-2’s from the next five races, but by then the Witches knew they were taking a more than manageable scoreline into their home leg.
Richard Hall made his debut for Berwick, and in his first meeting of the season he grew in confidence as the meeting progressed, with an inside pass of Robert Branford off the fourth bend in heat 12 showing he has lost none of his appetite for racing.
Berwick: Barker 16+1, Worrall 14, Doolan 9, Hall 6, Stichauer 3+2, Greenwood 0, Jorgensen rider rep.
Ipswich: Hawkins 14, Lawson 11, Nielsen 8+1, Tungate 6+3, Heeps 3, Branford 1+1, Manzares rider rep.