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George Dodds's picture

So are we going to make it into the playoffs?
Maybe … maybe not.
So when will we know?
Sometime soon-ish ... when everyone else gets their fixtures ridden or a cut-off date for play-off qualification is set and adhered to. It’s already moved once, who’s to say it couldn’t be extended again.
Meine damen und herren welcome to the State of Limbo; twinned with Confusion, Disorganisation, Entropy and Bedlam-by-the-sea.
Saturday saw the KLS Bandits complete their home league fixtures but we, once again, find ourselves bucking the trend.
Our management worked hard to get fixtures raced before what was originally slated to be the play-off cut-off date.
Others have not been so diligent.
Worst offenders as I are write are: Workington, eight, Edinburgh, Lakeside, Glasgow and Newcastle with seven apiece of their 20 fixtures unfulfilled.
Until they do – and the Bandits complete their road trips to Edinburgh, Ipswich and Peterborough, the first two rearrangements forced by inclement weather – we do not know how, or when our season will finish.
So what underhand chicanery and outright wizardry was invoked by Berwick’s very own Men in Black, the brothers Courtney, that was beyond their fellow promoters – Sheffield excepted – when it came to timely completion of fixtures?
It all began with picking and sticking to a race night.
We are a Saturday track ergo we race on Saturdays. Even when there is a Bank Holiday, a GP on the telly, an England football match is played hours before start time or the tide’s in at Mablethorpe.
Then, before the season started, a fixture list was compiled which gave balance and order to the season despite a the low number of guaranteed home meetings – ten league and three Shield.
In Berwick’s case it was pretty much meetings on three Saturdays in each month.
After that it’s a case of thinking on your feet.
Not qualifying for the Shield’s business end and falling at the first stage of the Knockout Cup played a part – but we still had the free Saturdays pencilled in to cope with other scenarios surrounding those two competitions.
Here’s a hypothetical scenario for you.
Team A, let’s call this totally fictional team the Watchers, has two top riders missing through injury, guests are a little thin on the ground and around a thimble-full of rain falls in the vicinity of their stadium hours before tapes-up when a team from the north of England is due in town.
Do you: A) Race regardless as the long-term health of the sport is far more important than a potential loss to one of the league’s more solidly assembled teams and when it comes down to it a cut-off date is surely an immovable object.
Or B) call off the meeting with embarrassing haste then look on in horror when, two months later, the rearranged date falls victim of a genuine deluge at the end of two of the hottest months on record for almost 40 years and then join the lobby to extend the fixture cut-off point date to avoid failing to qualify?
Answers on a postcard to: Mortimer Mouse c/o the Speedway Control Bureau.
But even my stone cold heart experienced a twinge last week when two world class international speedway riders – John and Chris Louis – found themselves explaining to fans that they were unable to watch a meeting that evening because two who are not – Craig Cook and Rory Schlein – deemed the Foxhall Heath track unrideable and the rest of the riders lined up behind them.
Of course when it rains you can always put down the covers to give yourself the best chance of getting a meeting raced.
Well actually, unless you’re Berwick, you can’t as despite obvious evidence of their effectiveness no-one has followed our lead.
Even in a near-drought summer the Sheet Army was mobilised in June so that riders returning from a less than profitable mini tour of Sheffield and Lakeside could take their frustrations out on Edinburgh in the Shield in perfect conditions at Shielfield despite a couple of torrential downpours.
So Saturday might, or might not, have been our last meeting of the regular season but the buckets of water, low flying chalk, farewell speeches and general shenanigans had to be put on hold.
We were in Limbo.
As it happens the response to the Bandits’ innovative STARS initiative has been such that the management announced there will be at least one more meeting at Shielfield this season – possibly more if we reach the play-off finals.
While every little is gratefully received the not so little £1,000 cheque signed over to STARS by the Bandits Supporters Club allowed bossmen Scott and Norman to record their entry for the 2018 Steradent Gurn of the Week contest before racing got underway on Saturday.
But before any season-ending individual extravaganza can be planned we need to know if we are in the play-offs. Other teams need to get their fixtures raced.
Where are we?
That’s right … LIMBO.
On track we completed one of our most successful Shielfield seasons and moved into third place in the league as leaders Peterborough became the latest to be despatched by the Magnificent Seven, albeit by a scoreline which didn’t reflect the quality of entertainment.
It takes two committed teams to make a memorable meeting so perhaps it is worth comparing and contrasting the Panthers’ approach to our friends from the north the previous week.
Edinburgh number one Ricky Wells boasted on social media after the meeting that he came with one game plan and one gearing and wasn’t prepared to try anything if he missed the gate; an approach which rubbed off on team-mates who barely deserved to be paid for their 39 points on the night.
Seven days later Peterborough scored four points less than the Monarchs but fought hard for every one; no less than you would expect from a team containing a Lambert, a Palm Toft, a Starke and a bit of Bacon, all led by Scott Nicholls, the silver fox of British speedway who was untouchable on the night – if you don’t count flying elbows – despite not being especially dominant out of the traps.
His “forceful” undertake of Jye gave a hint of why a rider generally known as one of the sport’s gentlemen once came to be trading punches at the Cardiff pits gate with Emil Sayfutdinov almost a decade ago.
Rumours that he told our young Kangaroo – who was certainly bouncing on the warm-down lap – that “Bomber says hi” are as yet unconfirmed.
Once again the reserve duo of Theo Pijper and Nicolaj Busk Jacobsen led the way while David Howe’s drift wide and cut back inside Simon Lambert was worth the admission money in itself.
But, as is our wont, especially on home shale, everyone played their part as we capitalised on the draw at Scunthorpe the previous night to make it five points in the space of 24 hours and moved up to third place in the Championship table.
One piece of silverware safely back in the Bandits’ trophy cabinet is the Northern Junior League after a typically methodical defeat of Peterbrough Thundercats.
Scott Nicholls handed over the trophy and in Leon Flint, Blair Smith, Luke Harrison, Sam and Harry McGurk, and Keiran Douglas – noting their names for future reference in the jazzy shirts of BT Sport punditry-land.
Maybe the view from Limbo isn’t as bad as it sometimes seems.