Wednesday August 18, 2021
BIRMINGHAM came up with a big finish to complete a third successive home league win with a 53-37 triumph over Berwick.

The eventual 16-point margin of victory didn't fully reflect the meeting as the Bandits gave the Brummies several nervous moments and were just two points down with four races to go.

But Erik Riss was in electric form as the home No.1 completed a five-ride paid maximum in the closing stages, twice combining for 5-1s with skipper Chris Harris as the Brummies recorded three on the bounce over the final three races.

Harris, meanwhile, became the fastest rider of the season at Perry Barr when he roared round in a time of 58.22 in Heat 4 "“ which also underlined the effect of the extensive track work carried out over the last week, with the dust issues of recent home meetings resolved and conditions far more conducive for both riders and spectators.

Brummies reserves Jack Thomas and Paco Castagna put their side ahead with a 5-1 in Heat 2, but early mechanical problems for Ashley Morris and Valentin Grobauer prevented them from taking full control of the meeting.

And the Bandits were inspired by former Birmingham rider Leon Flint, still hugely popular at Perry Barr, who won three races out of five in mid-meeting including a tactical substitute outing in Heat 9 when the Bandits threatened a 5-1 only for James Shanes to pass Aaron Summers for second place.

Indeed, the Bandits could have been even closer but for several points thrown away with skipper Jye Etheridge crashing out of the lead in Heat 7, Andersen suffering engine failure in Heat 8 to turn a potential 5-1 into a 3-3, and then Etheridge fell again in Heat 10 when he got too close to team-mate Dany Gappmaier on the third bend.

But when guest Tom Brennan and Flint raced to a shock 5-1 over Harris in Heat 11 with the home captain hit by clutch trouble, it was very much game on at 34-32.

Brummies, though, dug deep with Shanes quickly clearing Etheridge to win Heat 12 whilst Thomas notched a crucial third place by re-passing Kyle Bickley.

Then Harris rode a spectacular outside line in Heat 13 to get the better of Brennan and also go round his team-mate Riss, who held back a strong challenge from the stand-in Berwick rider to put the home side eight points up.

Morris resolved his issues to make a flying start in Heat 14 and was joined by Castagna for a 5-1 to seal the match, before Riss and Harris wrapped things up with another 5-1 as Flint was squeezed out on the first bend and the Brummies' top two got the better of the ever-trying Brennan.

Birmingham manager Laurence Rogers said: "It was a bit worrying at one time, it was getting a bit close, but the boys pulled it out of the bag with those 5-1s at the end.

"Erik had his favourite engine back and that very much showed, that was more like the Risky we know, and hopefully it's the first of many maximums.

"The track was way different, and no dust which was lovely! It's still a bit bumpy in places, but John (Priest) will be working on that, and we'll get it right.

"There was some cracking racing, and it was great to see Flinty back here and flying against us "“ but it was a good performance by the Brummies.

"We're getting on to a run of form here at Perry Barr and now we've got to do that away from home to start climbing that table, because it's not out of the question if you look at the meetings we've got in hand."

Brummies have a busy spell for the remainder of the month with a trip to Scunthorpe on Friday, followed by home and away clashes with Plymouth, the Gladiators visiting Perry Barr next Wednesday.

BIRMINGHAM 53: Erik Riss 14+1, Chris Harris 12+1, James Shanes 9, Paco Castagna 7+2, Jack Thomas 6+1, Ashley Morris 4+1, Valentin Grobauer 1.
BERWICK 37: Leon Flint 12+2, Tom Brennan 7, Jye Etheridge 5, Dany Gappmaier 5, Aaron Summers 4+1, Kasper Andersen 3, Kyle Bickley 1.

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