Northern League, Vikings v Edinburgh Falcons, Sunday 16th March 2014
NORTHUMBRIA: Gavin Parr 17+2, Michael Parr 14+3, Mark Mulvey 12+2, Jason Keith 12+2, Dan Redshaw 11, Simon Watson 10+1, Jack Watson 7, Scott Latimer 5
EDINBURGH: Neil McPherson 17, Craig Newsome 16+2, Lee Lawrence 15+1, Kamil Greszla 11+1, Neil Swanson 10, Mikey Hewitson 9+2, Jake Slight 7+1, Douglas Morgan 5
Neil Magee reports:
An agonising last heat loss, will not spoil the many positives to have come from this amazing start to the season and a new era of racing at Cramlington, the Vikings team racing so hard throughout and proving that they can live with the best. Ultra effort, total commitment, superb entertainment for a decent sized crowd, a win all round then for cycle speedway at its best.
Quite simply, the opening day on the brand new track could not have had a better meeting. Our auld enemy from the north of the border and ourselves engaged in a titanic, uber-competitive and always close tussle, raced in a superb spirit throughout by both sets of riders. It may be a long long time indeed until this brand new track sees a better meeting in fact ?
Sadly having lead since heat 1, Northumbria could not quite hold out. The final heat saw the Falcons needing an unlikely 7-3, but that is just what they got. Dougie Morgan was the hero for the Scots, outgating and outbattling Dan Redshaw from the start, then sailing off in front as Mikey Hewitson and Jason Keith had a battle royale behind. At one point it looked like Jason had done it, riding Mikey to the extremities of the track, but the Scottish #1 blasted back round the outside going into the first corner of lap 3 and was to hold on, with Jason a spent force now behind and Dougie all ready to take the massive cheers from the visiting pits.
It had all started so well for the Northumbrians, Mark Mulvey and Micheal Parr taking a max in the opener with Jake Slight looking off the pace, though Michael was lucky to be in a re-run of this heat, having got his big crash in early this time.
A good couple of shared heats followed with Jack Watson looking very fast and then Gavin Parr shielding new regular partner Dan Redshaw ahead of Mikey Hewitson in heat 3. Michael Parr shrugged off the pain of his earlier purler to win heat 4 and with Scott Latimer able to take advantage of the ailing Jake Slight, the Vikings had built up a 6 point lead that they were to maintain until the half time break.
Heat 10 straight after we got underway again was always looking a weak one, the Falcons with a max to pull back within 2 points. The narrow lead was maintained thanks to a brilliant pass by Jack Watson on Mikey Hewitson in the next race, what a rider this young man will be and already is. Better was to follow in heat 13 as Gavin cleverly brought Dan Redshaw round the pack to take a 7-3 and regain the Vikings former lead at 6 again, Dan's best ride ever in the first team showing his undoubted speed when he is in the clear. A bad fall however for Jack Watson in heat 14 put him out of the meeting and proved a decisive blow, the Falcons taking a 7-2 in the re-run.
Gavin Parr closed out his meeting with a straightforward win, but partner Mark Mulvey's fall in heat 16 cost the Vikings some much needed points and made it still very much squeeky bum time with two to go. The impressive Simon Watson who was making his competitive debut in cycle speedway (apart for a single euro vets meeting) teamed up with Michael Parr to share the penultimate heat, meaning all Jason Keith had to do was avoid total defeat in the finale and the Vikings would take something from the meeting.
Unfortunatley it just wasnt to be however, lady luck leaving us just when we needed her most, but no-one on the team can be criticised at all. The Falcons perhaps got out of jail, winning despite leading at only one point in the match, the most crucial time as it happens, but they will be very relieved to have escaped this one. The Falcons team manager said he was so glad they managed to get the 2 points here, knowing that everyone else would now have to come and try and do the same. We now can be sure he is correct in saying that several others will not.
If the same effort and commitment is put in throughout the season, especially with more riders to come in like Dan Wharrier and John Wilson, continued improvement from the younger group and a fantastic team and club spirit always shown, this kind of day can be a regular day at Cramlington, maybe next time and surely many more times in the future, it will end with a win for the Vikings.
Well, an extremely entertaining, if somewhat manic match between two strangely well-matched sides kept the spectators on the edge of their seats! There couldn't have been a better demonstration of determined racing for the Vikings new major sponsors, Parkside Logistics, to witness first hand on their first visit to a Cycle Speedway event.
With the Vikings expecting another dose of last year's near-humiliation, it was the visiting Falcons who were the lucky ones, apparently lacking widespread match fitness within their ranks. The Vikings took an early lead after a few controversial falls in the early heats but the Falcons kept regrouping to keep the scores close all the way. The last heat proved crucial with the Vikings needing to secure a draw, but the slightly down-on-power Jason Keith couldn't match the pace of his Scottish rivals in that finale and the spoils went over the border again in a real cliffhanger.
As usual, home captain Gavin Parr led the charge dropping just a single point while doing his utmost to help his partner when he could, while brother Michael took yet another second bend tumble amongst his huge 17 point haul but looked a far fitter rider than he was last year. Backup came as expected from our second-year Manchester-based capture Mark Mulvey who rode hard as he always does and seemed to have the longevity he missed last year after his winter training while the aforementioned Jason Keith didn't make his usual rapid starts this time.
The second strings were solid with Dan Redshaw and first-team debutant Simon Watson showing plenty of speed and aggression while it proved a bit of a baptism of fire for young Jack Watson and a slower-gating than usual Scott Latimer.
NORTHUMBRIA: Fred Mitchell 10, Scott Latimer 9+2, Jim Graham 9, Dan Redshaw 9, Simon Watson 8, Andy Knowles 6+2, Keith Oldham 4, Norman Carson 4
EDINBURGH: Neil Swanson 19+1, Douglas Morgan 17+2, Euan Kennedy 15+1, Gavin Kennedy 12, Callum Slight 12, Calum Cairney 7+1, Kieran Swanson 3, John Murphy 1
Edinburgh have already made no secret of the fact that they are targeting a win of the Division 2 title this year, their super 'B' squad mostly all in attendance and always likely to march back off north with the win. Meanwhile, with Terry and Neil declining team spots to concentrate on other match day duties (both also some way short of match fitness), it was the turn of several of the Vikings other squad members to stake their claim for regular Div 2 outings in 2014.
Unsuprisingly the Falcons soon pulled away, Neil Swanson unbeaten, Dougie Morgan dropping just a single, while young Euan Kennedy had a fine meeting and looks to be the next Falcons star to come off their conveyor belt of talent. With Mark Lee and Marcin Czarkowski to come into this squad, they must indeed be favourites to achieve their aim at this level. At the other end of the scale poor Johnny Murphy had a nightmare of falls to contend with on a rare outing for the super veteran.
For Northumbria Fred Mitchell was consistant to top score, overcoming a poor first ride where he ran out of gas. Scott Latimer started well before getting himself frustrated after a couple of falls, coming off worst in a shoulder barge with big Callum Slight (as indeed most do). Jim Graham and Andy Knowles used their knowhow to get themselves into good positions several times, but didnt quite have the legs to stay there, while Dan Redshaw also joined the fray for a trio of steady second places. Keith Oldham and Norman Carson were somewhat off the pace, the big long straights of the new look circuit, doing the old guard no favours at all.
It was good to get everyone out on track, but with several unable to travel regularly, future places will depend on a decent commitment to Gavin's training sessions. That said all club members will always be kept active with a varied programme of racing planned all through the season, including club meetings and the later three rivers league in which we will again meet these super Falcons.
Not sure how our Fast Freddie does it without attending too many training sessions, and this his first real go on the new track, but he really did ride very well today. As indeed did Simon Watson in his second outing of the day, his score of 8 including an exclusion for holding on to an opponent while sailing straight past turn three! Exciting to watch though, and it isn't hard to see how how his sons Jack and Pete are so good on bikes themselves with a role model like their old man! Falcons though - super-strong. And great to see the fabulous John Murphy down here again, still as keen to ride his bike as ever at over 70! Unfortunate for John being caught up in a couple of tangles but all credit to possibly Scotland's greatest ever rider and a lovely fella.
NORTHUMBRIA: Pete Watson 12, Lewis Petre 8, Lee Redshaw 8
EDINBURGH: Calum Cairney 16, Kieran Swanson 16, Sean Hewitson 10
Considering the efforts of the coaches and club to attract youngsters, it was a slightly dissapointing turn out of U-13's today with only 3 young Vikings on track. Hopefully in future meetings the likes of Issac Ferry, Mitchell Gray, Liam Smith and many others will join this squad.
Those that did come along were brilliant however and warmed us all with their efforts as they hung around patiently on a cold day, then riding with smiles on their faces and just as much guile as the first teamers throughout.
All our squad were U-10, while the Falcons had 3 if not 13 year old, then very nearly 13 year olds, the difference in size power and experience always showing. Undeterred Pete Watson rode his heart out in every race and he will not be beaten by many his own age once he meets them later in the season. Lee Redshaw was enthusiastic looking like another to follow in the dynasty started by grandpa Jim if he sticks at it, though again he needs opposition more in keeping with his age. Meanwhile Lewis Petre at just 7 became the youngest rider to ever represent the club, he getting a considerable head start in a sport he is sure to be a champion in one day soon if his determination is anything to go by, looking pretty fast too and never too far behind in any race.
It was great to finally get properly started at this level, with these many U-13 meetings to come, set to be even more enjoyable once we have a full crop of future superstars on track and with the British U-10's at Hull later this year, one of the best things the club can achieve this year, is to have a team entered with these three who rode today set to be at the fore.
Once again GRT Media was on hand to record the action and the result of this film session, in particular, should make a copy of the splendidly produced DVD a much-treasured posession. Oour hearty thanks go to Bob Tasker for his professional help in putting us in the spotlight of amateur sport in the North East.
Thanks to the spectators who turned out to face that bitter wind, our new sponsors Parkside Logistics and their family members who came to see if they are getting value for their cash support and everyone who helped out on the day and behind the scenes, most noticeably Northumberland Sport for its invaluable publicity material.
Oh, and almost inevitably I owe a huge debt to Richie Smith for rising from his death bed (well, sweat bed then!) still full of flu bugs to act as announcer and leave me free to stand around watching the action.