This Saturday we will see Edinburgh at Shielfield.
In the quarter-final of the KO Cup – perhaps a competition that has provided the most-vivid memories for old Banditos over the past half-century.
Remembering to forget the times we bombed out in various Finals – against Ipswich, Eastbourne, Rye House and, er, Edinburgh – I am old enough to savour the victories.
This is a trophy we have lifted twice – each time the lifting was handled by Rob Grant as captain – and there are many of us who will from time to time drag out the video (perhaps now converted to dvd) of the notable 1989 triumph (63-33 in the second leg) over Leigh Adams, Craig Boyce, Alun Rossiter and the rest of the red-hot-favourites from Poole.
Having the pictures keeps the recollection fresh, even if we weren’t overly fresh at about 2.45am when we finally closed the Berrington Lough club-rooms, following an epic after-match celebration.
I can (just) recall leaving the scene with Davie Fairbairn, still clinging on to the Cup as well as to each other – we looked like the Scarecrow and The Cowardly Lion, after a bad night on the road to Oz.
But our first KO Cup victory was a lot tighter. This was in 1980, we were between tracks (out of Shielfield, not yet at the Lough) and had to face a solid sloth of Bears from Middlesbrough at Brough Park in our ‘home’ leg.
Present-day supporters will perhaps raise the odd eyebrow at our choosing Newcastle as a home from home, but back then we found it acceptable!
Anyway, with no film or video available, we have to rely on snapshots from our fading memories to recall this one.
We lost 42-36 on the Thursday, and on a damp, misty Sunday night on the Fossway struggled to pull back those half-dozen points. As it went on, the teams were trading 5-1s like two old heavyweights swapping haymakers.
The Bears had Mark Courtney (yes, Scott & Jamie’s dad) and Steve Wilcock in fine form, and although Steve McDermott was immaculate in black-and-gold, he’d had his five rides by the time the last heat came around.
The aggregate was 76-73 for us, but the Courtney/Wilcock pairing were on track, while we fielded Mike Fullerton and Nig Close.
Off they went, and the two Bears hit the front, easing away for the 5-1 that would take the trophy to Tees-side.
On the last lap, on the third bend, there was just a chance and Nig took it, slicing up under Steve Wilcock, who went down like Nicky Pedersen at a GP -- and lay there in the muck while we sailed over the line for the Cup-winning 3-3.
Did Steve slide off on his own, or did Nig help his downfall? With no video evidence, and (I have to observe) a benevolent referee, our man was given the benefit of the doubt and Grantie was given the KO Cup.
But in truth, it was a very Close-run thing………
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