Redcar Bears 47 Edinburgh Monarchs 43

THE season starts here!

After a torrid first half of the season, revamped Redcar Bears served a notice of intent that they can, after all, salvage something from a thus far torrid campaign by becoming only the second team this year to beat the reigning champions in the Premier League.

The addition of Jonas B Andersen, who played a key role in a gritty, determined and deserved Ecco Finishing Bears victory, not only looks a shrewd piece of transfer business but has also led to a seismic shift in the dynamics of a previously ailing side.

New boy Andersen was tidy and quick on his first ever competitive ride in the UK, scoring seven (paid nine) points as the Bears gained a revenge victory for their heavy defeat at Armadale last Friday.

And he earned instant hero status with a vital victory when the heat was on in the penultimate race. For with Adam Roynon finishing second, it meant the Bears would take an unassailable lead going into the final heat of a memorable night at the Media Prima Arena.

His arrival has also seen Roynon drop out of the main body of the team which, for the first time this year gives the Bears a real sting in the tail and allows team manager Jitendra Duffill the option of throwing in a potential points scorer as a reserve replacement up to three times in a night.

He did so twice against the Monarchs. On the first occasion he boldly left out second string Jan Graversen who was coming off a paid win, and although Roynon was last in that one, he repaid the gaffer’s faith in him by producing that crucial second place behind Andersen in the penultimate heat when he came out in place of Ben Morley.

It wasn’t just about Andersen and Roynon though – the whole team looked in the mood for it as they twice battled back from behind to claim a morale-boosting win.

In fact one of the best rides of the night was from reserve Morley who showed both courage and maturity in refusing to be bullied out of the way by Erik Riss in heat 11.

No 1 Lasse Bjerre looked more like the rider we fell in love with earlier in the season too, giving us the odd heart in the mouth moment but fast and focused with it.

Bjerre retired from the first race with bike problems as the Monarchs began with a routine 5-1 but was never out of the top two after that,

Duffill’s men replied with a 5-1 of their own in heat two as Morley, not for the last time during the meeting, did well to keep Riss at bay after the German had started from a 15 metre handicap for touching the tapes.

The visitors began to flex their muscles mid-meeting and pulled out a 24-18 lead but a 5-1 from Roynon and Graversen over Riss and former Bear Justin Sedgmen in heat eight put the Bears right back in it.

Three consecutive drawn heats kept them breathing down their visitors’ necks before a 4-2 from Matej Kus and Roynon over Kevin Wolbert and Max Clegg levelled it up at 36-36.

That was the easy bit! Next up came a potential make or break showdown with Bjerre and Stuart Robson taking on Monarchs pair Craig Cook and Sam Masters who were both unbeaten at that point.

The visiting pair started as favourites for this one but Bjerre and Robson rode a phenomenal first lap to stamp their authority on the race. British No 2 Cook tried a big sweep round the outside on turn four but Robson was having none of it and the Monarchs man soon pulled onto the infield after being left at the back.

Still the drama wasn’t over. Robson was riding a wide line to pick up grip but a pre-meeting downpour had soaked the track and left it deep out near the fence. Robbo was comfortably second to Bjerre on the final lap when he lifted and fell on the back straight, allowing Masters – by then minus his steel shoe – past, although the home skipper remounted to claim a point.

It was a point lost but not a disaster, and when Andersen and Roynon brought home the bacon next time out victory was assured.

Edinburgh ended with a 4-2 but this was the Bears’ night.

BEARS: Adam Roynon 10+2, Lasse Bjerre 10, Matej Kus 8+1, Jonas B Andersen 7+2, Stuart Robson 6, Ben Morley 3+2, Jan Graversen 3+1
MONARCHS: Sam Masters 14, Kevin Wolbert 10+1, Craig Cook 9, Justin Sedgmen 5+1, Erik Riss 4+1, Max Clegg 1, R/R for Rob Branford.

MEANWHILE Rafal Konopka, dropped by the Bears to accommodate Andersen, has joined Peterborough as a replacement for the departed Ollie Greenwood.

Julie Lewis Memorial Meeting

REDCAR Bears prospect Ben Morley was pipped to victory in the Julie Lewis Memorial Trophy meeting final – then revealed he feared he might not even get as far as the track the night before.

Morley joint top-scored in the heats in the annual stars of tomorrow parade at the Media Prima Arena with 11 points before winning his semi-final, then finishing second in the final to Cradley skipper Max Clegg- the only rider to lower his colours all night.

But Morley, who lives 285 miles away in Southend, was left wondering how he’d be able to make the marathon trek after his van broke down earlier in the week.

Fortunately however he found a mechanic who was prepared to work through the night to fix it and his parents went to collect it at 3am on raceday so it would be ready to load up in time for them to set off for Teesside.

“We have to leave at 10.30am to come up here,” said Morley. “and I had nothing else. I was calling people round to see if they had a van but no-one could sort anything out.

“The mechanic worked wonders on it and worked all through the night, then rang my mum and dad at 3 o’clock in the morning and they went and got it.

“It was just a relief that it was ready because otherwise I don’t know what I would have done. We were looking at renting but they wanted stupid money – there wouldn’t have even been any point in coming up because it would have cost me so much money.”

It was obvious from early on that Morley – who lines up for the Ecco Finishing Bears in the Premier League at Edinburgh on Friday – and Clegg would be the men to beat.

And Morley knew he had a formidable opponent in Clegg when he made the gate in heat five, only to be powerless to prevent the Heathens star form storming to the front.

Clegg’s only defeat came in heat 10 when he found himself snuffed out at the start and though he battled past Stoke’s Lee Payne, he couldn’t catch winner Danny Ayres of Kent.

Late replacement Rob Shuttleworth was the other stand-out rider in the heats, winning three times but falling in his third outing.

Teessider Danny Phillips was involved in one of the best races of an entertaining meeting, dicing with Stefan Farnaby for second place and eventually diving through on the inside to take two points.

Redcar Cubs captain Ben Basford was given the chance to test himself against some useful National League performers and didn’t disgrace himself with three points from his four rides. Compare this to his performance in last year’s meeting when he was thrown in at the deep end and it’s clear to see the progress he has made.

All four finalists had routine passages to the trophy showdown, where the fast-gating Clegg hit the front straight away followed by Buxton’s Liam Carr, Morley and Shuttleworth,

Morley tried desperately to find a way round Carr and when that didn’t succeed he switched to the inside. The move paid off and he got past but was unable to catch Clegg although he certainly seemed to be making ground with the chequered flag in sight.

Trophies for the night were provided by The Gazette.

Qualifying Scores: Max Clegg 11, Ben Morley 11, Rob Shuttleworth 9, Liam Carr 9, Lee Payne 7, Danny Ayres 7, Connor Coles 4, Michael Neale 4, Ben Basford 3, Danny Phillips 3, Adam Extance 2, Stephan Farnaby 1

Semi-final 1: Clegg, Shuttleworth, Ayres, Coles.

Semi-final 2: Morley, Carr, Neale, Payne.

Final: Clegg, Morley, Carr, Shuttleworth.

MORE from Ben Morley in Saturday’s Gazette and on

Redcar Bears 44 Ipswich Witches 46

WELL it was most certainly better – there can be no doubt about that.

But the scoreline doesn’t lie. No matter that this was an entertaining meeting on a track in a much improved state than for the ill-fated visit of Workington or that you couldn’t fault the effort of any one of the seven Ecco Finishing Bears riders, it was another home defeat in an already disappointing season.

The Bears had battled back from an early four-point deficit to lead by six points with three races to go, but their visitors beat them across the finish line.

A 5-1 in the reserves’ race had given the Witches an early foothold in the match but Ben Morley redeemed himself when he surged to the front and rode a textbook race to hold off Rohan Tungate and win heat four.

Skipper Stuart Robson dived inside Stefan Nielsen to grab third place and confirm the Bears’ second successive 4-2 to bring the scores level.

Four consecutive drawn heats kept it that way – the second of them after Jan Graversen was passed by both visiting riders after clonking the fence with his side on a 5-1 and the third of them after Robson pulled off the move of the night, darting between Nielsen and Nico Covatti to hit the front.

A 5-1 from Matej Kus – who ended the night with three race wins – and Adam Roynon in heat nine put the Bears in front for the first time.

And they nearly had another maximum heat advantage next time out. Graversen was again unable to hold off both Ipswich riders but he refused to give up and took the inside line to get past Tungate coming out of the final bend.

With the score at 39-33 the Bears – who had lost heavily at Berwick and Rye House over the Bank Holiday weekend – were on the verge of victory, but their opponents hit back and the scores were dead level at 42-42 going into the final race.

Kus had been the only man to beat Witches No 1 Danny King but he was unable to repeat the feat as the Great Britain international took the chequered flag for the fourth time and teamed up with Covatti for a match-winning 4-2.

Even when they were on that late losing streak the Bears still showed some fight though, with Lasse Bjerre slamming the door shut on Tungate to preserve his second place in heat 13 and Roynon spending all race trying to improve on his third place next time out.

BEARS: Lasse Bjerre 12, Matej Kus 10, Adam Roynon 6+1, Stuart Robson 6, Jan Graversen 5+1, Ben Morley 3, Rafal Konopka 2+1.

WITCHES: Danny King 14, Nico Covatti 10+2, Richie Hawkins 9+1, Stefan Nielsen 6+1, Rohan Tungate 5+1, Gino Manzares 2+2, R/R for Cameron Heeps.

Redcar Bears 37 Sheffield Tigers 55

REDCAR Bears’ season is starting to resemble a game of snakes and ladders.

Just as they seem to be making progress, climbing up the ladder if you like, all the momentum is suddenly halted, and this time is was Sheffield’s turn to send the Ecco Finishing Bears sliding down the slippery snake after they had made good headway with two wins and a narrow defeat in their previous three matches.

The sides traded 4-2s early on as they kept it tight, but once guest Josh Grajczonek – who went on to complete a four-ride maximum – and Andre Compton scored a 5-1 over Adam Roynon and faller Stuart Robson, the visitors didn’t look back.

Quite simply the Tigers were the better side. They began with one foot in the knockout stages of the Premier League Cup while the Bears couldn’t have qualified even if they’d won – and you could see why.

By the time Robson came out – and finished second – in black and white in heat 12 the gap was 12 points and it was just a damage limitation exercise.

At the top Lasse Bjerre had an up and down night, blasting from last to first in one of his two race wins but also burning out two clutches, which ruled him out of heat 15.

At the bottom Ben Morley won his first race on home shale but guest Luke Crang failed to score. Who’d have thought we’d be saying ‘We missed Rafal Konopka’? But we did and fortunately he’ll be back after an elbow injury in Friday’s Premier League match at Plymouth.

In between? Well Jan Graversen was well short of his recent flying form, Robson has had better nights but Roynon and Matej Kus performed well enough.

This was effectively temporary signing Roynon’s first meeting of the year as he’d only got as far as the first bend on his Peterborough debut in March when he crashed heavily, suffering broken ribs and a punctured lung. He’s playing Major League catch-up but he won his first race, did his job and will get better as he achieves he race sharpness everyone got some weeks ago.

BEARS: Matej Kus 9+1, Adam Roynon 8+1, Stuart Robson 7, Lasse Bjerre 6, Ben Morley 5+1, Jan Graversen 2, Luke Crang 0.

TIGERS: Josh Grajczonek 12, Jason Garrity 12, Ty Proctor 9, Andre Compton 8+2, Josh Bates 5+3, Ashley Birks 5+2, Arthur Sissis 4+1.

Redcar Bears 47 Rye House Rockets 43

A FIRST Premier League win of the year and a new signing – suddenly things are looking up for Redcar’s Ecco Finishing Bears.

After giving a good all-round team performance to come from behind and beat Rye House, it was announced that Adam Roynon would join them in time for next Tuesday’s rearranged League Cup clash against Sheffield.

Roynon, 26, enjoyed a successful spell with the Bears in 2011 and comes in on a 28-day transfer to replace Hugh Skidmore who suffered dislocated shoulder and nerve damage in a crash during last week’s heavy defeat by Peterborough.

Ironically Roynon was a spectator for that meeting, having joined the Panthers for 2015 but suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung in a horror crash on the very first lap of the season.

Having now recovered from his injuries he was back at the Media Prima Arena on Saturday to practise and he’s now sealed a deal to ride for the club during Skidmore’s absence.

He comes into a side that, after a terrible start to the season, has now won two of its last three matches with a battling defeat at Newcastle sandwiched in between.

Bears team manager Jitendra Duffill had described the visitors as one of the weaker sides in the league but it looked like it was going to be another one of those nights as they trailed 13-5 after three heats.

Even reserve Dan Greenwood had beaten home No 1 as the Rockets blasted off with a 5-1 in the opening heat – surely things could only get better!

Fortunately they did.

The recovery began when Stuart Robson – who had fallen trying to find a way past Anders Mellgren in his opening ride – and Jan Graversen gave a textbook display of team riding to snuff out Michael Palm Toft and Eddie Kennett and post a big 5-1 in heat five.

After a drawn heat the sides traded 4-2s before the Bears clicked into gear with three successive 5-1s to turn the meeting on its head. One of those came after Kennett suffered bike failure at the start, but you need a little slice of luck sometimes, don’t you?

The visitors came back with a pair of 4-2s and a drawn penultimate heat left the score at 44-40, meaning the visitors could still deny their hosts victory with a 5-1 in the last race.

But Lasse Bjerre was at his fearless best to take the chequered flag, although Kennett very nearly had him on the line.

The top end all did their job to ensure the Bears clinched their first three league points of the year and lift the mood in the Media Prima Arena but they couldn’t have done it without the valuable contribution of Rafal Konopka.

The young Pole’s nine (paid 12) point return was his best ever in British speedway and was the sort of performance that demonstrated why the Bears promotion had kept faith and had patience with him. He was quick out of the gate, looked comfortable on his bike and was in the mood for a battle – you can’t ask much more of a speedway rider.

His heat seven victory was the highlight but he deserved every one of his points.

BEARS: Jan Graversen 11+1, Lasse Bjerre 11, Rafal Konopka 9+3, Matej Kus 8+1, Stuart Robson 7+1, Ben Morley 1+1, R/R for Hugh Skidmore.

ROCKETS: Anders Mellgren 11+1, Eddie Kennett 8, Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen 8, Michael Palm Toft 7, Kasper Lykke 5, Dan Greenwood 4+1, R/R for Robin Aspegren.

Redcar Bears 32 Peterborough Panthers 49

YOU know that light we saw at the end of the tunnel? Turns out it was on the front of an express train heading our way and coming to run us down.

After getting off the mark against Scunthorpe last week, Redcar Bears were mauled 49-32 at home by Peterborough Panthers in their first Premier League meeting of the season.

And they’ll be without Hugh Skidmore, arguably their best rider on the night, for around a month after he suffered a dislocated shoulder in a crash which caused the meeting to be abandoned two races from the scheduled end.

Skidmore had gone into heat 14 having dropped just one point to an opponent while returning skipper Stuart Robson – riding at No 3 with Matej Kus switched to No 5 – bounced back from a spill in his first ride to give a marvellous display of the skill, guile and trackcraft he has gleaned from a long career.

It says something about the way he’s started the season that Lasse Bjerre had a disappointing night by his standards when he ‘only’ scored eight points from his four rides but even so his performance wasn’t too shabby.

But thereafter the Ecco Finishing Bears struggled. Badly.

When four of your riders score just seven points between them at home, you know you’ve got problems.

With two inexperienced three-pointers at reserve, this is a team which needs all its top five to come to the party, and two of them didn’t.

Peterborough are one of the strongest teams in the league but there are a few others just as capable, and some more so. And you have to say that the only possible way the Bears can hope to compete with them is by making changes because they’re simply not strong enough as it is.

The night started with the Bears’ old No 1 (Panthers guest Richard Lawson) getting the better of their new No 1 (Bjerre) as the visitors opened with a 4-2, and when early leader Rafal Konopka was passed by both opponents as Peterborough slammed in a big 5-1 next time out, you sensed it was going to be a long night.

The gap was up to 10 points after only four races although Skidmore and Robson responded with a 5-1 in the following heat, the skipper using all his years of experience to find a way past Lawson and then keep him behind.

Bjerre won heat six on his second bike after suffering an engine failure at the tapes, and with Jan Graversen coming home third, the gap was down to four points.

Was a comeback on the cards? Errr, no. Back-to-back 5-1s in Peterborough’s favour made sure of that.

Robson went out in black and white for heat nine and duly partnered Skidmore to an 8-1 but it was all downhill after that with Peterborough ending the curtailed meeting with a pair of 5-1s followed by consecutive 4-2s.

The second of those 5-1s saw Kus slip from first to last while Robson was denied victory when Claus Vissing found a way past in heat 12.

And Bjerre ensured he wouldn’t be on Lawson’s Christmas card list any time soon in heat 13. Lawson went crashing into the air fence shortly after the start and although all four riders were called back for the restart, Bjerre did seem rather fortunate to escape an exclusion. Lawson’s reaction – which resulted in the pair having to be separated at the pit gate – made his feelings on the incident crystal clear.

It was all over before heat 14 could be restarted. Skidmore appeared for all the world to be the victim of first bend bunching when he went crashing into the air fence, although when the red lights came on, he found himself excluded.

Any perceived injustice quickly became the least of the Bears’ worries however when medical staff attended the stricken Skidmore, who was in considerable pain. A county ambulance was called for but, with the meeting already held up while track paramedics tended to him, it became clear the remaining races wouldn’t be completed before the 10pm deadline and a halt was called.

BEARS: Stuart Robson 10+1, Lasse Bjerre 8, Hugh Skidmore 7+1, Matej Kus 3, Rafal Konopka 2, Jan Graversen 1, Ben Morley 1.

PANTHERS: Richard Lawson 10, Simon Lambert 9+1, Claus Vissing 9, Ulrich Ostergaard 7, Michael Palm Toft 6+1, Lewis Blackbird 5+2, Oliver Greenwood 3+1.

Redcar Bears 53 Scunthorpe Scoprions 40

THE Bears are back!

After a torrid start to the season, Redcar’s Ecco Finishing Bears bounced back to record a well deserved first victory of the season.

There was a mid-meeting wobble when a 14-point lead was slashed to just to just three, but they stuck firm then ended with a flourish to take three Premier League Cup points from their Media Prima Arena clash.

Once again No 1 and stand-in skipper Lasse Bjerre led by example, missing out on a six-ride maximum by the narrowest possible margin after being pipped on the line at the end of heat 11 by Theo Pijper following a valiant race-long battle to reel him in. One more lap and he’d have been past!

But it was a good effort from top to bottom. The two reserves still have work to do but it was much better from both of them – Rafal Konopka looking more composed and comfortable than he ever has and storming from third to first as he won heat two, while Ben Morley was on the pace and in the mix.

Hugh Skidmore was back to the Skiddy who won our hearts – and the Bears Rider of the Year award – in 2013 and 2014 while Matej Kus is always good for a couple of wins and more, and didn’t let us down in that score.

Jan Graversen was outstanding in his first three heats and provided one of the highlights of the meeting in heat six as he fought a determined and ultimately successful rearguard action to fend off the advances of ex-Bear Josh Auty, a rider who will battle until the end and never knows when he is beaten.

After sitting on a paid maximum with three rides done he tailed off as the track began to slicken off and failed to score in his last two but he did his job early doors.

With six races gone the Bears were sitting pretty at 25-11 up, having provided every heat winner up to that point.

But the black and white tactical double helmet colour so often seems to contain mystical qualities and when former Bear of the Year Carl Wilkinson wore it in heat seven, he and team-mate Alex Davies slashed the deficit to 26-19 with a big 8-1.

When Theo Pijper and Nike Lunna followed up with an unexpected 5-1 over Morley and Graversen the score was suddenly 27-24 and what had been a commanding position had been almost completely eroded.

Which way was it going to go? Were the Bears going to capitulate completely?

Three drawn heats stopped the rot and a run of three successive 4-2s made sure of victory before Bjerre and Skidmore combined for a final heat 5-1 over Auty and Pijper to end the night in style and brought home a maximum points haul.

There’ll be tougher tests ahead but this was a definite improvement and will bring confidence and belief into the team ahead of their Premier League opener against Peterborough next week, when injured skipper Stuart Robson is set to return.

BEARS: Lasse Bjerre 17, Hugh Skidmore 11+1, Matej Kus 9+1, Jan Graversen 7+2, Rafal Konopka 5+1, Ben Morley 4, R/R for Stuart Robson.

SCORPIONS: Carl Wilkinson 11+1, Josh Auty 9, Theo Pijper 7+1, Alex Davies 6+1, Nike Lunna 4+1, David Howe 3, Ellis Perks 0