Greg and Kyle take fight to the Tigers

Published on 4th September 2022
Author George Dodds
Leading man … Greg Blair
Mildenhall Tigers 57
GHT Bullets 33

Greg Blair and Kyle Bickley fought a brave rearguard action as the GHT Bullets’ hopes of finishing in the league’s top two suffered a serious setback, accounting for all but nine of their side’s tally on difficult afternoon in Suffolk.

Mildenhall’s West Row circuit has attracted a lot of negative comments over the years but the track was blameless on Sunday- even for the heat one crash which robbed the meeting of two of its young stars.

Ace Pijper was caught sitting too far back on his machine as he left the tapes and he collected the home pairing of Jason Edwards and Josh Warren on his way to the first bend fence. The 15-year-old rising star took a knock to the head in the frightening incident and was withdrawn from the meeting with concussion and kept overnight in hospital despite a clear CT scan. Edwards’ afternoon also ended with a shoulder injury.

Treatment stretched the Mildenhall medical team and the match – the first part of a double header also involving Plymouth – looked set to suffer a long delay before two first aiders were plucked from the crowd. One of their first jobs was to attend to Mildenhall’s veteran team boss Malcolm Vasey who fell awkwardly while walking towards the centre green but fortunately fears that he would need to join Edwards en route to the hospital proved unfounded.

Concussed … Ace Pijper

Berwick were already handicapped by the face that Luke Crang was missing from the line-up having suffered a work-related injury during the week. It meant that rider-replacement was the only option available to team boss Gary Flint.

Bickley scorched to victory in the rerun heat one and rider-replacement Blair took advantage of an engine failure by Jack Kingston while leading three, their promising rides sandwiching a 5-1 in the reserves’ race.

Mason Watson also struggled in three despite gating well and that was to set the tone for the afternoon with the middle and lower order unable to offer any support for the spearhead.

Blair, who had struggled as a guest for Oxford seven days’ previously, showed he had learned from the trip as he made it back-to-back race wins in four in the process taking what would turn out to be the only point dropped all afternoon by Tigers’ guest Connor Coles.

Bickley became Berwick’s fourth heat winner in five races but Kingston made up the ground and passed Watson for third place despite starting off a 15-metre handicap after failing to beat the two minute clock.

Coles avenged his earlier defeat by racing past Blair in six but Kieran Douglas picked off Josh Warren to ensure the points were shared and that the Bullets trailed by just two points after heat seven.

But Berwick were struggling to cover Crang and Pijper’s rides, Ben Rathbone not helping matters by touching the tapes in heat eight making it an easy race maximum for Warren and Luke Muff.

Rathbone and Watson were on the wrong end of another 5-1 in 10 undoing much of the good work by Blair in the previous race as he again looked smooth and in control from tapes to flag.

Coles lowered the colours of Bickley in 11 before Watson hit the track awkwardly in 12, Rathbone managing to keep Muff at bay to restrict the damage but any hopes of a losing point all but disappeared with the 4-2.

Coles looked exceptionally fast and even though Bickley beat him from the traps the Leicester man sped past him down the back straight, Blair’s engine failure allowing the Tigers to extend their lead, the penultimate race ending in a not too surprising 1-5 with Spooner and Kingston well ahead of their Berwick counterparts.

Coles took heat 15 with some ease but Blair and Bickley packed in to keep Warren at bay.

Mildenhall were untroubled by the loss of Edwards – number seven Alex Spooner scoring an outstanding paid 18 while for Berwick it was a two-man show.

They had been due to wrap up their NDL campaign at Leicester on Saturday night but the fixture has now been withdrawn in favour of the Championship KO Cup semi-final between the Lions and Poole.

It is now likely to be restaged in October when it is likely to be a dead rubber once the top four play-offs have been decided.

Bickley stayed on to guest in place of Dan Gilkes for the Centurions in the second meeting of a long afternoon, winning his first three races and then having to withdraw from the meeting after suffering bike problems in heat 11.

Busy boy … Kyle was a Bullet and a Centurion

Berwick asset Danny Phillips guested in place of Edwards for the home side having been contacted en route back from Kent where he had top scored for Armadale in their 35-55 defeat at Kent earlier in the day.

“We always emphasise that this league is about development as much as results but, Greg and Kyle aside, there were some disappointing performances in Bullets’ colours this afternoon,” team manager and promoter Gary Flint said.

“Ace can be excused but his first heat crash was a result of inexperience. The track was as good as I can ever remember on a visit to Mildenhall so that was not the problem.

“In the end with the three riders not really on the pace and with no tactical substitutions allowed in the National League we ran out of options. Losing Luke was a big blow as he would have been the ideal foil to Greg and Kyle who I cannot praise enough.

“It’s a tough lesson but as long as it is one that is learned then we move on and prepare for the play-offs.

“Things are up in the air a little with regards to the outstanding league match against Leicester. They will offer us three dates and we will choose the one that fits in with our rider availability.

“Once the top four is known we get on with arranging the play-off semi-final which will be the next action at Shielfield Park.

Tigers: Jason Edwards 0, Josh Warren 10+1, Sam Bebee R/R, Jack Kingston 6+4, Connor Coles 17, Luke Muff 8+2, Alex Spooner 16+2

Bullets: Kyle Bickley 11+1, Ace Pijper 0, Mason Watson 1, Luke Crang R/R, Greg Blair 13, Kieran Douglas 2+1, Ben Rathbone 6

Pictures: Taz McDougall and Nia Martin
George Dodds
George Dodds

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