George Dodds's picture

Heroes come in many shapes and sizes.
Some wear a cape, others unfeasibly snug tights, still more spin webs from their wrists, leap tall buildings, produce fire at will. Some don kevlars, crash helmets and ride 500cc beast without brakes … or fear.
Others arrive on the back of a builder’s truck which has seen better days.
Our particular band of superheroes rose to the challenge at 7.10pm on Saturday, May 19 – around the time Zaine Kennedy decided to rearrange the back straight furniture at Shielfield.
His first trip to Berwick may have lasted less than 200 metres but in that five seconds or so but the young Australian still booked a place in Bandits’ folklore.
Typical Aussie, he made sure that there was a photographer on hand (check out the crash sequence on Taz McD Photography’s Facebook page) to record how he clipped Coty Garcia’s back wheel, high-sided and followed the bike through the not inconsiderable pieces of timber that form our back straight fencing.
And to all of those who like to grumble about “Elfin Safety gone mad” there was ample evidence of why there is a sterile zone between track and fans as his machine made a, thankfully unsuccessful, bid to visit The Ducket tea-bar for a sly pie.
Across the verdant green of the Lowland Football League’s newest member club the cry went up: “Can they fix it?” “Too damn right they can – nobody’s getting a refund tonight”.
And so the hand-picked group of Berwick’s finest assembled on the Banditmobile and, fire roaring from the exhaust, sped off to save the world … again.
Racing past a dazed, distinctly second-hand but thankfully largely unscathed Kennedy en route, what looked, from a distance suspiciously like a combination of Chippy Minton, International Rescue and Whacky Races descended on the carnage.
Some hammering, much grunting, thumping and jiggery-pokery later and they had performed the perfect Fencenectomy.
Racing was back on track – at least until Jye over-cooked it on the third bend and took a fearful thump flush in the back from the machine which Ty Proctor had laid down with lightening reflexes.
In the end it was Proctor – whose recent visits to Shielfield have been eventful to say the least – who joined his countryman and team-mate in pulling out of the meeting, although Jye and Coty were both left decidedly second-hand from their part in proceedings.
Kyle Howarth is one of those riders who feels that every point has to be raced for full throttle. It’s great entertainment for fans but can backfire badly as two his falls when in scoring position would cost the Tigers’ dearly at the end of the night.
Sheffield’s walking wounded gave us a real fright with a mid-meeting comeback which, at one stage, looked like giving them a surprise victory.
They were the first team to arrive in the Borders this season with all their riders prepared to get stuck in and attack the track. Newcastle had a couple, Glasgow the same, Edinburgh were – Luke Ruddick aside – about as uninterested as you can get.
This was different. Every point was scrapped for, hard-earned and in the shape of Cool-hand Summers we had the gunslinger to face down the enemy on main street at high noon – or heat 15 as we like to call it.
So it was something of a surprise to arrive home suitably refreshed and excited and switch on the laptop only to find that the Shielfield leg had been dismissed on social media as the “worst meeting so far”.
As the good people at Private Eye would say “Shome Mishtake Shurely”.
Jye, Coty, Ty and Zaine formed the weirdest boyband since JLS on the sidelines when the teams met again at Owlerton 20 hours later, a combination of guests and rider-replacement supplementing the walking unwounded.
This time it was NBJ who would attempt to rearrange the safety fence on what was reportedly a difficult track after rain.
After three races we led 14-4. Incredible, amazing but it couldn’t last as the Bandits’ suffered some of the misfortunate that had dogged Sheffield the previous night.
Dany was doing his bit with the sort of away display we crave from Austria’s number one bingo player while Redcar’s Jordan Stewart was the latest in the line of inspired guest bookings this season.
Incredibly for the second time in as many days it all came down to a last heat decider.
Aaron, Howarth and Danny King were there again but, sadly, the Summers’ number one engine didn’t come to the party and the former British Champion got the better of Dany to give Sheffield the win, again by two points.
Which left me – and I’m convinced that I’m not alone here – strangely unfulfilled. I say strangely because for most of the most of the past 52 years a four-point haul from home and away fixtures against Sheffield would have been cause for huge celebrations; maybe even a street party.
But these are strange times and in 2019 we have higher hopes for this band of Black and Gold brothers.
So we are actually disappointed with a point from Owlerton – possibly our first-ever, although I admit I am no Gavin Renton when it comes to having an encyclopaedic historical memory. Truth be told, I think we dodged the bullet on Saturday as Sheffield were effectively reduced to a four man team. It’s always more difficult on the road as track knowledge and the odd sly piece of regrading tends to favour the locals.
However, because of their Championship Shield performances – and we should know our semi-final opponents after Edinburgh host Glasgow in their rearranged qualifying fixture on Friday night, we expect the 2019 Bandits to deliver home and away.
But surely a point, or more, from Eastbourne on Saturday is too much to hope for … or is it?