An absolutely perfect surface awaited NVCSC's pair of Three Rivers teams as the clock ticked ever nearer to 1.30pm on Sunday 23rd July 2017. Northumbria were "at home" for this one against the "visitors" Cramlington Crusaders. The two sides selected by 3Rs Master Planner Neil Magee clashed for the first time a week earlier in a test run to size up team strengths. The Crusaders ran out winners that day against expectations although the Vikings were beset with bad luck early on.
As start time arrived they seemed to be in trouble again with a no-show from Dan Redshaw and Shane Gray. Fortunately Richie Smith turned up to fill the reserve berth and offer some hope. At the other side of the pits things looked even darker for the away team with Dan Wharrier, Jordan Smith and Bradley Stansfield all failing to turn up. Crusaders Manager Terry Kirkup substituted reserve Norman Carson into the number 2 slot and Daniel and Paul Thompson into 3 and 4 to give Crusaders a more solid look.
Jason Keith outgated John Wilson in heat 1 after the latter had won the toss and taken inside grids to give Northumbria a heat win. Just behind these two Ashie Patterson and Norman Carson had a right old ding-dong with Ashie coming out on top this time and an equally enthralling battle coming later with fortunes reversed.
Lee Redshaw beat the Thompson's in the next race but without a partner suffered a 4-5 reversal. The next heat gave us the first inkling of what was to come from dazzling 50 year old newcomer JeanPaul Colback as he partnered Terry to a 7-3 over Keith Oldham and Richie to ease Crammy into an early lead which they would not relinquish.
John managed to beat Lee in heat 5 to give Crusaders another heat advantage but Jason, Keith and Lee then slowed their progress with wins in heat 6, 7 and 8. The ninth was a revelation with JeanPaul hurling himself away from grid 1 to inflict a very unexpected defeat on Keith with Paul getting the better of Ashie for a 6-4 to the Crusaders.
Heat 10 and 11 provided Northumbria's only 7-3s with first Jason and Lee, then Keith with stunning support from Richie on the line. JP took two more superb heat wins from outside gates to seal the win for Cramlington while Lee was a little unlucky to spin on the gate in one race. Unfortunately John's scrap with lee in heat 8 led to him pulling a few muscles in his back, and it looked very painful. John soldiered on collecting his remaining last place points which helped make the difference.
We got pretty lucky with the weather as the heavens opened big style 10 minutes after the last race but the grip provided by a nicely wetted track was probably as good as it's ever been and in the quicker races speeds were well up. This is the kind of racing we need to provide more of and concentrate our efforts on boosting interest locally. Thanks once again to Keith Dyer for refereeing the meeting.
The rest of the Three Rivers match dates are provisionally as follows but will need further ratification nearer the time:
|17th Sept - H North&Cram v Edinburgh 3 Rivers TBC|
|1st Oct - A - Glasgow v North&Cram 3 Rivers TBC|
|15th Oct - H - Cramlington v Northumbria 3 Rivers 1.30pm|
|22nd Oct - A - 3 Rivers Playoffs at Edinburgh TBC|
NOTE* Fife have pulled out of the competition.
The Cramlington v Northumbria meeting may be moved back into the summertime if free dates allow or could be staged midweek.
When you look at NVCSC's two teams you need to put into perspective the likely availability of riders for away matches. The way I see it both sides will be lucky to get 4 or 5 of their riders to the away matches so what looked like a great idea may turn out to be just the opposite, a carbon copy of the current worsening Northern League situation.