Double header meetings in speedway are somewhat of a rarity, and in truth prior to Saturday night I would be hard pushed to tell you the last one I actually witnessed.
Truth be told I’m not usually a huge fan of the concept of one meeting followed by another as it takes a major toll on man and machine, but with that being said there is nothing quite like a local derby.
Prior to tapes up on Saturday saw me in a bit of a quandary you might say, but what a bloody night it turned out to be!
Firstly the Bandits saw off the Monarchs in spectacular fashion and subsequently ended their hopes of making the playoffs for the second year in succession. If that wasn’t satisfying enough we hit them for 60 big ones and a sublime paid 15 point maximum for Jye Etheridge was the cherry on the top.
As has been well publicised Jye was labelled the worst rider in the league by the Edinburgh promotion as they booted him out the door a few seasons ago. I think they might want to look at some of their current squad before making foolish statements like that again.
Jye rode with heart and determination against his old side and he let everyone know just how much it meant to him and by my reckoning that is his second maximum against the Monarchs…if he’s the worst rider in the league, how bad does that make them?
Of course in the usual fashion the Monarchs book of excuses was out, the track was blamed, the referee was blamed and I’m sure I was probably blamed too at some point during proceedings. Monarchs “stars” Sam Masters and James Sarjeant took to social media to do their bit of “Berwick Bashing” too but the fact is that they simply weren’t good enough on the night. Nothing more, nothing less.
In the case of Sarjeant he was beaten before he even got to Shielfield and given his performance and attitude, I’d say he might just overtake Jye and claim the title of the league’s worst rider.
I know I often say the Monarchs are the team everyone wants to beat and it sure is satisfying when we get one over on them, but their travelling support deserve far better than a rider with the attitude of James Sarjeant.
Having just about recovered from sending the Monarchs packing, the might of the Glasgow Tigers came with one sole mission in mind, and that was league points and to be fair, they put up one hell of a fight. They probably deserved a point but your Bandits were in no mood to roll over and have their bellies tickled.
What unfolded before us was nip and tuck meeting with no more than a handful of points between the sides at any given time and there was that sense that something big was going to happen.
As the tension grew heat by heat, Glasgow swung the pendulum back in their favour with a Craig Cook tactical substitute ride as he and Rasmus Jensen combined for a 5-1 to close the gap to just three points. But not to be outdone, Jye Etheridge was once again the star of the show as he produced a stunning ride in heat 11 to get the better of Cook and settle Berwick’s nerves again.
Etheridge was at it again in heat 13 with a stunning move to get the better of the previously unbeaten Rasmus Jensen to claim the vital third place to level the heat to keep Berwick in the lead. Berwick’s cause was further helped when Rasmus Jensen remembered his dislike for Shielfield Park and retired while in last place. Some would say normal service was resumed at this point.
Captain Kev and Coty Garcia duly delivered a match winning 5-1 in heat 14 to secure the Bandits second victory of the evening and in truth the performance of Garcia in heats 2, 8 and 14 in particular was the difference between the two sides at the meetings conclusion.
With one heat to go the Tigers were still in with a shout of a league point and with Craig Cook and Claus Vissing they had a great chance…but Jye Etheridge had other ideas. He made a jet propelled getaway and looked set to beat Cook for the second time….then the tension that had been bubbling up all night finally reached boiling point when Craig Cook charged underneath Jye on the entry of bend 1, only to clip Jye and send him hurtling into the safety fence.
What followed could have gotten way out of hand had it not been for the quick thinking of Berwick officials to gey Jye calmed down before he had a quiet word in Craig Cooks ear. What would have ensued would likely have spoiled a thoroughly enjoyable night of racing but instead the controversy and little bit of needle added to the evening.
That wasn’t to say that seeing the referee leaving the box to have a word with Cami Brown didn’t add to the evening’s entertainment! Also the sight of Dick Barrie jaw jacking and paw pointing with a large Tiger mascot was arguably worth the admission money alone!
Credit where it’s due to all three sets of fans for creating an electric atmosphere and all the riders for putting on a show. Fair play too to referee Jim Mcgregor too for making sure both meetings ran slick and smoothly and we seen thirty gripping heats of speedway.
With the Monarchs sent packing and the Tigers rendered pointless it was one of the most memorable Shielfield nights in my twenty years of watching, and what a pleasure it was to be a miniscule part of it.
That powderkeg atmosphere, that thunderous crowd noise, the controversy, the magic out on track and the entire night in general just reminded me of all the reasons why I fell in love this with this sport all those years ago. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when it’s done right and all the ingredients fall into place, there is nothing quite like live speedway, and when it’s like that it is absolutely bloody magical!
If Carlsberg did Saturday’s…
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Until next time…and there will be a next time.
Right I’ll hae’tae gan