Sheffield’s visit to Northumbria’s Cramlington Astrodome came just five weeks after the Wosskow Brown Stars fell to a four point home loss to the Vikings. The Vikings entered the match without Dan Wharrier, now departed to the USA for a 12-month adventure of a lifetime. The Stars were at full strength, having the luxury of the same eight riders for the third match in a row. The outcome was a 99-79 victory for Sheffield, their third win on the bounce and a result that temporarily promotes them to third place in the league.
However, it was far from the perfect start for Sheffield, Vicky Brown back in the pits before turning a wheel after a tapes exclusion. Kyle Holland made a great pass on Mick Parr to keep the damage to a minimum of a 4-5 loss. The Vikings were three points up when Dan Redshaw rode brilliantly to relegate Rich Hudson to last place in heat 3, helping skipper Gav Parr to a 6-4 race win. Sheffield got their noses in front after a Holland/Luke Morton 7-3 maximum in heat 5 put the scores at 24-25. Sheffield increased their lead in the following race with a 7-2 heat advantage from Joe Twigg/Niall Morton. This time is was the Vikings Gav Parr back in the pits for movement at the tapes. The misdemeanour causing a five-minute delay while the tapes were repaired, so not just slight movement!
The next three races finished all square. Jason Keith, Gav Parr and Redshaw gaining the race winners while Sheffield filled the minor positions. The heats from 11-15 saw Sheffield hit a purple patch as they outscored the Vikings by 30-20, increasing the lead from 8 points to 18 points. The spell included two excellent wins from Adam Watson, who executed brilliant passes on Keith as they exited the fourth corner. Twigg also managed to withstand the pressure and attentions of Mick Parr, confirming his move up from rookie racer to seasoned veteran.
Confirmation of the match points heading back to Sheffield came in heat 16, with Twigg and Brown chasing home Gav Parr. Then Mick Parr finished a fine personal match by winning heat 17, the Vikings gaining their third heat advantage as Keith came home ahead of Niall Morton after both had crashed following a robust challenge from the Sheffield youngster. The match finished in style for the Stars, with the Holland and Watson pairing racing to Sheffield’s fourth 7-3 maximum. Adam Watson shone brightly for the Stars, this his best showing for Sheffield in the Northern League, but again it was solid scoring from 1-8 that proved crucial.
The Stars had only three last places in the 18 heats, gaining 11 assists. The Vikings sorely missed Wharrier, with only Keith, Gav and Mick Parr being consistent in beating a Sheffield rider.
Mick Parr 17, Jason Keith 16, Gavin Parr 16, Dan Redshaw 11, Shane Gray 7, Terry Kirkup 6, Andy Knowles 3, Keith Oldham 3.
Adam Watson 18+1, Joe Twigg 17, Kyle Holland 15+3, Vicky Brown 11+1, Rich Hudson 11+1, Niall Morton 10+3, Ed Morton 9+1, Luke Morton 8+1.
The League Two match was ridden in the same sporting manner, with Sheffield holding out for victory by 75.5 – 72.5.
The first three races finished as 5-5 drawn heats. This was due mainly to the tenacity and persistent of the Vikings Dan Thompson. Trailing behind Sam Haines/Niamh Morton he prevented a Sheffield 7-3 by passing both Stars riders on the last bend. The Vikings went into the lead with a 7-2 advantage in heat 4. Laura Watson was excluded after a spectacular fall, Lee Redshaw/Douglas keeping Sophie Middleton at bay in the re-run. The next five races saw the team’s trade maximum 7-point scores. Sheffield gaining four to the Vikings one, had the Stars forge into a 48-40 halftime lead. When Douglas fell and was a non-finisher in heat 8, few saw at the time how decisive that outcome would prove.
A Vikings fight back was on the cards after a heat 10 6-4 result from Dan Redshaw/Knowles. Then came another pivotal moment of the match in heat 13. The Vikings duo of Lee and Dan Redshaw were in a 7-3 maximum position for three and three-quarter laps. As the riders exited the final corner, Dan crucially eased down slightly. The Stars Rob Mawhood (who had been probing around the outside all the race) saw his opportunity and sprinted for the finish line.
Referee Terry Kirkup was unable to fully establish which rider had crossed the line first, announcing the result as a dead heat (Mawhood’s first ever dead heat in over 20 years of racing). The Stars introduced Luke Morton as a reserve replacement in heat 14, his win over Douglas (with a superb switchback pass) ensured a last heat decider. Dan Redshaw completed a fine match as he sprinted away for his third win, and the Vikings ninth from fifteen heats, but with Ed Morton and Haines keeping Paul Thompson in last place it was Sheffield who took home the league points.
Dan Redshaw 17.5 + 1.5, Dean Douglas 14+1, Lee Redshaw 11, Dan Thompson 9+1, Andy Knowles 8+1, Paul Thompson 6, Richie Smith 5, Bradley Stansfield 2.
Ed Morton 16+2, Luke Morton 11, Niamh Morton 11+1, Laura Watson 11+1, Sophie Middleton 10+1, Sam Haines 9+2, Rob Mawhood 7.5 +2.
The afternoons enthralling racing continued into the under 13’s match.
Northumbria prevented a Sheffield hat-trick by claiming the league points with a 63-49 victory. The Vikings Lee Redshaw was in brilliant form, claiming a maximum 16 points by winning all four of his races.
Kielan Burton finished in second place following three race wins, helped with two great passing moves to get the better of Bradley Stansfield. The Viking finishing with 14 points. Jack and Joe Brownell managed a win each for the Stars, a statistic also achieved by the Vikings Sam Stansfield. The Stars youngest rider, Lewis Bemrose, was unfortunate with a draw that had him racing the top four riders each time he went to the tapes. All the riders points scored in League three count towards the outcome, so the points scored by Samantha Crane, Ellis Carr and Bailey Bowman proved to be the Vikings winning combination.
With the match finalised the two teams agreed to run a few extra races just for fun.
Samantha Crane won a competitive C Final from Lewis Bemrose, Ellis Carr and Bailey Bowman. Samantha and Lewis both progressed to the B Final. Lewis gained revenge with a great inside pass on Samantha, but they both finished behind Joe Brownell (winner) and Sam Stansfield. The accolade of winning the final race of the day went to Lee Redshaw as he completed a fine afternoon with the A Final. Kielan Burton followed in second place with Bradley Stansfield (third) and Jack Brownell (fourth).
All the racing was finished by 5pm and was into the Sports Centre for the excellent after meeting buffet that the Vikings provide, and a chance to thaw out.
Lee Redshaw 16, Bradley Stansfield 14, Sam Stansfield 12, Samantha Crane 8, Ellis Carr 7, Bailey Bowman 6
Kielan Burton 15, Jack Brownell 13, Joe Brownell 12, Lewis Bemrose 9
We weren't strong enough to compete against so many rapid teenagers but absolutely no disgrace in losing the way we did, so well done Vikings, Although I let the side down in one race after being hung out to dry (exactly as I was at Sheffield!), I don't think any of the rest of you let us down at all, we do pretty well for a team of veterans. And indeed well done Sheffield, you were superb. Jason returned from his holiday with an unexpectedly strong performance to back up Mick's top score and continue his successful season while Gavin's small mistake had us all gasping in disbelief! Niall's one mistake compensated for that and reduced his score. Adam Watson stood out for the Stars with some great racing and passing manoeuvres.
I was pleased with Dan Redshaw's performance once again, as I'm sure we all were, but he really should wise up to the fact that his elbow/shoulder charges ALWAYS slow him down, and ALWAYS make him overshoot! Need a bit more finesse there, methinks, but the signs sre good. One other small piece of advice I would donate is to learn how to put in a fast lap, especially when your teammates are hanging over the fence screaming for you to do exactly that. Never seen it happen yet but have seen loads of points dropped through dawdling around.
The Division Two match proved a much better spectacle than the main encounter as it normally does. Sheffield dared to field half a team of ladies but did that affect their performance? Not a bit, they were fantastic and I wish we had a similar collection of super-keen racers.
I think we need to cut Division Three races down to three laps, even with one or two "older" kids in them - it's just soul destroying for wee ones to be lapped or caught before the finish. Of course we'd need agreement with our visitors first.