Wednesday September 22, 2021
BIRMINGHAM moved to within one point of the Championship play-off places with a 55-35 win over Newcastle in their final regular home league fixture of the season.

Brummies skipper Chris Harris scored a brilliant 15-point maximum to head up a solid all-round team display to keep alive their hopes of sneaking into the top six with one match remaining.

Their hopes now rest on Friday’s trip to Glasgow, where a draw or a win would elevate them into sixth place at the expense of Scunthorpe.

Harris put on another spectacular exhibition of track craft at Perry Barr, with his Heat 1 effort arguably the ride of the night as he recovered from a slow start to reel in and pass the Diamonds duo, making it past Ben Barker with a trademark outside move.

Brummies reserves Paco Castagna and Jack Thomas gave their side control with a 5-1 in Heat 2, and Thomas was involved again in Heat 4, this time with Erik Riss as the German got the better of Adam Roynon and guest Leon Flint on the first lap.

Barker was the Diamonds’ first winner in Heat 5 as he surged inside Ashley Morris going into the second lap, but the Brummies then collected back-to-back 5-1s with Valentin Grobauer enjoying his best home display of the season.

The home side continued to build their lead in mid-meeting with a string of advantages, and Heat 10 provided another Harris special as he got the better of Max Clegg and James Wright to team up with Grobauer.

Brummies led by 24 points at the interval before Newcastle provided a spirited end to the meeting including race wins for Barker, Wright and Roynon, the latter riding strongly to hold off Morris in Heat 14.

Riss suffered mechanical trouble at the start of Heat 11 and then found the door firmly shut by Barker when he looked to swoop around the outside in Heat 13, but the Diamonds had no answer to Harris who completed his maximum with some masterful first-bend moves.

Morris was also in double figures in another impressive home display, and all seven Brummies posted at least one win or paid win.

Harris said: “Newcastle had some riders who are good here, Ben and Flinty, so it was nice to get a comfortable win, and it was a good confidence boost for some of the boys.

“I’m feeling good, I’ve got a fairly good set-up here – I wanted to go one way, but the mechanic said we’ll go the other, and it seemed to work so he knew better tonight!

“We’ll go to Glasgow now with a bit of confidence, and a win or a draw will get us in. It’s going to be tough, they’re a good side at home, but if we can carry this form through, there’s no reason why we can’t do it.”

Regardless of the outcome of Friday’s crunch match at Ashfield, the Brummies are back at Perry Barr next Wednesday when they will look to overturn an 18-point deficit against Edinburgh in their KO Cup quarter-final.

BIRMINGHAM 55: Chris Harris 15, Ashley Morris 10, Paco Castagna 8+2, Valentin Grobauer 7+2, Erik Riss 6, Jack Thomas 5+2, James Shanes 4+1.
NEWCASTLE 35: Ben Barker 10, James Wright 8+2, Adam Roynon 8, Leon Flint 6+1, Max Clegg 3+1, Archie Freeman 0, Connor Mountain r/r.

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