MATCH REPORT: North & Scotland come through hard fought encounter

Astley & Tyldesley hosted Round 1 of the eagerly awaited Battle of Britain series at Gin Pit on Sunday. The matches were ridden on a fast, dry track on a warm, but very windy day.

In the Elite Junior match, the North & Scotland got off to the best possible start with a 7-3 by the Watson/Preston pairing over Goward/Garnett. Two shared heats followed, before N&S slammed in two successive 7-3s to take control of the match.

The South West & Wales hit back with a 7-3 of their own to the Jeffery/Smith pairing over Preston/Watson. N&S then took six successive heat wins and rounded off a convincing 81-57 win, with reserves Mohammadi and Wright taking a 7-3 over Smith/Bennett in the last race.

Ed Morton battles with Callum Goward in the Elite Junior match. Photo by Linda Kirkland.

Max Evans and Ed Morton top scored for a solid scoring N&S team, with Kaysar Mohammadi racing unbeaten from reserve. Will Jeffery was best for the SW&W team.

North & Scotland 81
Max Evans 13+1, Ed Morton 13+1, Kaysar Mohammadi 12, Adam Watson 10+3, Michael Preston 10, Louis Wright 9+1, Niall Morton 9, Devon Campbell 5.

South West & Wales 57
Will Jeffery 13, Callum Goward 10, Fraser Garnett 10, Callum Smith 8+2, Sean Bennett 8, Jack Ellis 8.

Referee – Darren Kent (Heckmondwike).

In the Elite Senior match, Damian Zareba won heat 1 in the fastest time of the day, 40.7 seconds, just 0.3 seconds outside the track record. The first two races were shared, before first blood to the North & Scotland, as Pollitt/Read took a 7-3 over Hook and British Champion Mould.

N&S edged further ahead with two more heat wins, before a dramatic heat 9. Payne was excluded for excessive force as he dived hard under Read, causing a heavy fall. N&S took a 7-2 in the re-run, to hold a 51-37 interval lead.

Bristowe suffered a gate exclusion in heat 10 and a 7-3 to E. Morton/Pollitt over Jeffery put N&S 58-39 in the lead. The South West & Wales duly claimed inside grids for the remainder of the match and were given a lifeline in the next race.

Ben Mould and Niall Morton in the Elite Senior match. Photo by Linda Kirkland.

First, Higham was excluded for excessive force, then Watson moved at the gate, to gift Mould/Hook a 7-0. N&S regained control with a 6-4 and 7-3 in the next three heats to move 81-63 ahead after heat 15.

Davies/Bristowe hit back with a 7-3 over N. Morton/Read in the next race. Payne picked up two more exclusions – gate and ramming – in heats 17 and 19. A 7-2 heat win to the N&S reserve pair of E. Morton/Ramsden over Jeffery in heat 19 sealed an impressive N&S 106-86 win, before Harris won heat 20.

The racing was very competitive and hard fought throughout, with no shortage of incident. A&T duo of Reece Pollitt and Damian Zareba top scored for a solid scoring N&S team, with former European Champion Zareba losing only to Ben Mould in heat 17.

Jake Read was injured in the heat 9 crash, running two last places after dropping a single point in his opening three rides. Former World Champion Steve Harris was top scorerĀ for the SW&W team, with three race wins. Mould also recorded three race wins, but former British Champion Zac Payne collected three exclusions.

The day could have been much different for South West & Wales, with three riders not making it to Gin Pit. Mark Carmichael was involved in a bad car crash and could be out with a severely damaged shoulder for some time (get well soon Mark), Shaun Rudman, who has been scoring well for Swindon this year called in with a knee injury and Jack Harrold didn’t make it to the track.

Team boss Nicky Evans needs to lick his wounds and turn attention to a crucial match against South East and East at Horspath in round 2. A full strength SW&W side will be a match for anybody, especially around the village. It’s certainly not all over, as this weekend has proven that any side can beat the other.

Meanwhile, North and Scotland team bosses will be pleased to see their preparations pay off, Mike Hack and Alan Taylor have really grasped the opportunity with both hands and receivedĀ their just rewards yesterday.

Alan Taylor (left) and Mike Hack (right). Photo by Linda Kirkland.

North & Scotland 106
Reece Pollitt 19+2, Damian Zareba 19, Kris Ramsden 14+1, Ed Morton 13, Ben Higham 12+3, Adam Watson 10+3, Jake Read 10+3, Niall Morton 9.

South West & Wales 86
Steve Harris 21, Ben Mould 17, Chris Davies 11+3, Zac Payne 11, Adam Bennett 8, Dean Hook 7+1, Will Jeffery 7, Wil Bristowe 4+1.

Referee – Graham Lush (Stockport)

Thanks to Mike Hack for the report.