MATCH REPORT: Sheffield nearly throw away victory

Bury 87 – 89 Sheffield, Northern League 1, 16th March 2014

Bury’s side was unchanged from the side that faced Astley & Tyldesley away last week, featuring their top scorers from that match Chris Parish, Ben Scranage and Neil Howarth, while Sheffield made just the one change to the side that lost to Stockport, Matt Parrott coming in for Mick Knowles, Radek Handke and Damien Zareba hoping to continue the form that saw them both complete 20-point maximums last week.

Heat one saw Handke claim the win from Parish and Owens to showcase why he finished third in the previous day’s Dash Trophies competition at Wednesfield. Heat two saw the first advantage of the match. Hudson was leading Scranage with his partner Smurthwaite trailing Elston. Scranage dived Hudson on the last bend to allow Elston to win, but Smurthwaite followed him through as Hudson caught his bars on Scranage’s to keep the loss to a 6-4. In the next, despite all his best attempts, Holland and Howarth had a tight race, several times swapping positions, until Howarth blocked the inside line to claim third, Zareba easily beating Ramsden to win.

Heat four saw Sheffield bite back to move into the lead, Parrott racing away for the win as Handke held Parish at bay to give Sheffield a 7-3 and put them two points ahead. Owens won from the chasing Burke in heat five, Morton getting an easy third as Taylor suffered a mechanical problem and failed to finish. However, the deficit was reduce to one as Christian Ramsden won, Hudson coming second after passing Howarth.

But then it looks like Sheffield could be in trouble after two exclusions in two races. First, in heat seven, Zareba was excluded for excessive force after halting an attempted pass by Parish, Holland being blocked by Parish in the re-run to give Bury a four point lead. Then, in heat eight, Morton was sent back to the pits after slipping off his pedals while under starter’s orders, although Handke reduced the damage with a win to leave the Rockets five points down to the home side. Hudson and Parrott got that down to three after Hudson passed Renc, Parrott leading Ramsden from start to finish to leave the scores at the interval Bury 45, Sheffield 42.

Burke continued his fine comeback with a win first race after the interval from the Taylor-Howarh pairing for a drawn heat, and then Zareba won the next in fine fashion, but all eyes were glued to the back of the field. Scranage came up Holland’s inside on the third lap and knocked him wide for Elston to come through. Then Holland did a superb switch and came flying up the inside of Scranage, who bounced off him and fell for a Sheffield 6-4.

Parish won from the Hudson-Smurthwaite pairing in heat twelve to keep the Comets one point in front, and then Sheffield headed into the lead as the Handke-Morton pairing achieved a 6-4 from the gates over the Howarth-Ramsden pairing. It looked like Sheffield were home and dry after another heat win, this time a 7-3 for the on-fire Zareba and Burke ahead of Renc and Elston to put them five points ahead.

However, luck had its own say. Parrott received Sheffield’s second tapes exclusion in heat fifteen to leave Holland on his own for a second time. Scranage won from the tapes and Holland took second to leave Sheffield’s lead at just two points. Handke completed his maximum in heat sixteen, but Parrott could only pick up fourth behind Owens and Ramsden to leave that difference at just two. Burke came in for Holland and took second behind Parish in heat seventeen, but Elston kept Hudson at bay for four laps to draw the scores with just one heat to go.

Scranage and Howarth for the home side, Morton and Zareba for the away. Morton off one, Scranage off two, Zareba off three, Howarth off four. First time out, and Morton is knocked onto the first bend, all four called back for the re-run. In that restart, off the gates, Scranage led, Zareba in second, Morton in third and Howarth in fourth. Zareba passed Scranage and it looked like a 6-4 for Sheffield, a result which would give them victory. But Bury would not capitulate that easily. Scranage bunched up the back three and Morton had to work to keep Howarth behind. On the last bend, Howarth dived up Morton’s inside to push him wide, and a last gasp for the line saw Morton thrown onto the outside curb as they flew over. And that was enough to give Sheffield victory, Morton just beating Howarth on the line.

For the home side, Chris Parish led the side well, losing only to Radek Handke and Matt Parrott, while Will Owens, James Elston and Ben Scranage gave good support. For Sheffield, Radek Handke was once again unbeaten, as was Damien Zareba except for the unlucky exclusion, and Jason Burke showed signs of how good he can be once again alongside the once-again solid Richard Hudson.

Bury 87

Chris Parish 16+1 (5), Will Owens 14+2 (5), James Elston 13 (5), Ben Scranage 12+1 (5), Christian Ramsden 11+1 (5), Neil Howarth 10+2 (5), David Renc 6 (3), Danny Taylor 5 (3)

Sheffield 89

Radek Handke 19+1 (5), Damien Zareba 16 (5), Jason Burke 13+1 (4), Richard Hudson 12 (5), Kyle Holland 8 (4), Zach Smurthwaite 7+1 (4), Niall Morton 7+1 (5),

Matt Parrott 7 (4)

Referee: John Burston