It really is a simple game

Published on 9th October 2022
Author George Dodds

What it comes down to is that we don’t even need to provide a race winner … as long as we have no fourth placed finishers. 15 3-3s will do it. There’s even wiggle room which allows one 2-4.

Either way such a scenario ends with the GHT Bullets booking into the east Midlands Hilton for a NDL Play-off pre-final final meal sometime after next Sunday’s semi-final second leg at Mildenhall.

Simples.

Some will, already have, argued that a three-point lead is too few for a Berwick side to take to the land of the low-flying stealth bomber. Certainly the 12-point advantage held after ten heats of Saturday’s all-singing, all-dancing, don’t take your eyes off it for a minute because something is about to happen first leg would have been more comfortable.

But as the subsequent three races proved when you put four men aboard 500cc motorbikes on a shale circuit in the depths of October the results can be, to say the least, unpredictable.

Which made for edge of the seat watching both up close and live and for those snuggled up at home being guided through the mayhem by the dulcet tones on Jye Etheridge and Ian Brannan via the British Speedway Network coverage.

There are a number of variables before this tie is tcked in and put to bed.

First up who faces who at West Row after a first leg which took its toll on men and machines.

Seemingly missing is Jack Kingston whose night in the north already being pitched as a Netflix blockbuster, with JK played by fellow Essex boy James Corden – the Smiffy rather than Bustopher Jones version that is.

From the special K missed the parade in an effort to breathe life into his misbehaving bikes, via points squandered in a heat nine tumble all the way through to the decision not to use that same lifeless machine as a weapon of mass destruction to rid the world of a pesky, aged infield meeting presenter at the end of a 300-plus metre foot slog, Jack was box office gold, his involvement in one of the most bizarre heat-13s staged at Shielfield worthy of a mini-series in its own right.

Jack’s start-line twitch tempted Kyle Bickley through the tapes at the first time of asking and late turn into the third bend then pushed our hard-charging number one – who had made up the 15 metre handicap incredibly quickly – wider than planned. Indeed crunching into the third bend funbags at very high speed.

Thankfully no more than a double dead leg resulted but with Greg Blair already on the infield with a dead motor referee Michael Breckon showed scant regard for soaring electricity costs by illuminating both the red and blue exclusion lights while attempting to outdo the neighbouring fairground with an impressive show of flashing fence lights. Followed by a couple of ambers as the two minutes went on for what had become a formality 5-0 in a two Tiger race.

Except that Jack is the cockney equivalent of Mr Blair – if it can happen it’s much more likely when he’s on track – and he managed a spectacular high-side on bend one of lap four, hitting the dirt but still having the wit to get back on his feet and set off on a run for home with two minutes to get to the line. Which he made, before collapsing in a heap and promptly being signed out of the second leg.

But despite all that Jack’s nomination at the 2022 NDL Oscars will be for best supporting role.

The main award – named in honour of our much venerated (check dictionary definition) mike man – The Dickie, despite strong backing for Jason Edwards and Mason Watson, is a straight shootout between two cool throttle-hand Lukes – Crang and Harrison.

LC was immense, four cracking race wins, robustly rejecting Edwards’ attempt to ride through him in their first encounter and then hot on the tail of the Redcar Bear in Tigers’ clothing when the red lights came on in 15. Making the decision to award the race after only two laps baffling in extremis

Mr Breckon’s decision came after LH had taken his second alarming, and third in total, tumble of an otherwise inspired NDL debut for this Berwick Academy boy graduating with honours.

He’s still that engaging nine-year-old strutting up to the mike at the start of season meet the rider bashes only now much faster and physically more imposing. Indeed, he’s still a Berwick boy at heart – albeit with a broad Lincolnshire brogue – and it was noticeable that it was the Berwick management and riders who were first on the scene after his spectacular last heat decamp, checking on someone who is very much one of our own, even when he’s in opposition colours.

That’s going to be a signature hotly contested over the winter months. Or indeed the next seven days as with Mr Shanes definitely sidelined alongside Jack the Lad, Mildenhall will be looking for guest stars.

As indeed may the Bullets with fitness tests to decide the availability of Messrs Bickley and Blair in particular.

As with all blockbusters the sequel has a lot to live up to.

I am confident that that this one will be more The Empire Strikes Back than Ted II.

And we go into it three points to the good.

George Dodds
George Dodds

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