Wednesday September 15, 2021
BIRMINGHAM kept their Championship play-off hopes alive with a rousing 52-38 win over a powerful Edinburgh side at Perry Barr.

Brummies skipper Chris Harris put on the most spectacular racing display of the home campaign with a string of blistering overtakes, whilst Paco Castagna once again proved to be a massive trump card at reserve.

And with Erik Riss and Ashley Morris both also in the big points and youngster Joe Thompson very much doing his job after stepping in at short notice for neck injury victim Jack Thomas, the home side controlled the meeting and picked up three vital league points.

But the final score didn’t entirely do justice to the efforts of the Monarchs, who very much showed up with the intention of getting on with the racing, a fact which was certainly appreciated by the crowd.

Brummies, in fact, provided each of the first eight race wins with Harris setting the tone in Heat 1 when after being outgated by rival skipper Sam Masters, he switched superbly inside the Australian off turn four and took the lead going into the second lap.

Riss took an early rider-replacement outing for the absent James Shanes in Heat 3 and the move paid off perfectly as he gated to a 5-1 with Morris, who fended off the challenge of Josh Pickering.

Morris then lowered the colours of Masters in Heat 5 to leave the Brummies eight points up, only for the visitors to make the start in Heat 6 and look set to halve the gap – before Harris gave the home fans two for the price of one by winding up the outside and passing both Richie Worrall and Drew Kemp in one sensational manoevre.

The Monarchs did get back into the meeting with a successful tactical substitute outing for Masters in Heat 9 as he teamed up with Worrall for maximum points, but Harris produced yet another party piece in Heat 10, missing the start but clearing both Pickering and Kye Thomson by the end of the first lap – whilst Castagna supplied third place with a smart re-passing move on Pickering.

The Italian then came to the fore in Heat 12 as he combined with Morris for a big 5-1 to put the Brummies ten points up, an advantage they maintained in Heat 13 as third-placed Worrall fell on turn three whilst Masters managed to hold off every effort of Harris to find a way through.

Brummies officially secured their victory with another Castagna/Morris 5-1 in Heat 14, before Masters was forced to start the last race from the 15-metre handicap after suffering mechanical trouble and exceeding the time allowance.

That put some pressure on team-mate Worrall as the Monarchs required 38 race points to make their own play-off position more secure, and he duly produced the goods with a fine ride to again resist the challenge of Harris.

Brummies boss Laurence Rogers said: “It was brilliant from start to end, and the result we wanted against a very strong Edinburgh side – our boys were on it.

“There was some phenomenal riding from Bomber, he’s just like a teenager and doesn’t know when to give up. Some of those passes around the outside were ‘out of the top drawer’ as Kelvin Tatum might say!

“Erik had his gating gloves on early doors, a change of engine worked for him, Paco knocked in a few heat wins in his 13, Ash was back to his old self, and young Joe certainly did his job.”

Brummies are now seven points behind sixth-placed Scunthorpe with three matches remaining, with the Scorpions having completed their fixtures.

Next up is a vital trip to bottom club Newcastle on Sunday (6.30pm) where former favourite Leon Flint has agreed to take a guest booking at reserve, and the Diamonds are the next visitors to Perry Barr next Wednesday (Sept 22).

BIRMINGHAM 52: Chris Harris 13, Paco Castagna 13, Erik Riss 12+1, Ashley Morris 11+4, Joe Thompson 3+1, Valentin Grobauer 0, James Shanes r/r.
EDINBURGH 38: Sam Masters 12+1, Richie Worrall 9+1, Drew Kemp 8+3, Kye Thomson 6+1, Josh Pickering 3, Tom Woolley 0, Anders Rowe r/r.

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