THEY won the match but Redcar Bears ended their home Premier League campaign with more of a rattle than a bang.
Team boss Jitendra Dufill was happy enough with a victory, and you can’t blame him. A win is a win and the meeting was a decent enough advert for speedway too.
But the Ecco Finishing Bears’ season-long habit of dropping points at home continued, this time giving the visitors the luxury of picking up a PL point on their travels for the very first time in 2014 after finishing the night within seven points of their hosts.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this season has been far from a disaster. But the Bears haven’t qualified for the play-offs for the simple reason that they’re not good enough. They have a handful of riders who, you could argue, deserve to have something to show for their efforts but as a seven-man team they’ve fallen short.
Against the Rockets Richard Lawson and Aaron Summers did their respective jobs as No 1 and captain while Hugh Skidmore again demonstrated the progress he’s making with a mature performance that saw him go unbeaten by an opponent in his first three races.
Jan Graversen burst into life with two excellent wins to round off the night but the rest of the team was solid rather than spectacular. And when you’re battling for points, it’s the extraordinary rather than the ordinary that gets you results.
The Bears made flying start with a 5-1 from Lawson a Skidmore over Eddie Kennett and guest Aaron Fox and although the visitors swiftly levelled it up, Duffill’s side were back in front after heat six. And although they stayed ahead for the rest of the night, they were never able to pull out what you’d call a comfortable lead.
Chris Gay has a reputation for holding riders at the tapes longer than other referees and, though exciting young starlet Jason Garrity missed a chance to make his rider replacement outing count when he went through the tapes at he start of heat six, it was the Bears who suffered most from it.
Graversen broke the tapes in each of his first two rides while Summers, after being warned for jumping the start earlier on, was shown the red light for the same offence in heat 11. On that occasion, though, with Graversen out in front, he battled past Fox and almost had Kennett on the line.
A 2-4 followed by a pair of drawn heats put the score at 44-40 going into the last race and needing a 5-1 to ensure a maximum points haul.
The Law flew out of the gate and cruised to victory but although Summers had the measure of Kennett, he couldn’t find a way past the impressive Steve Boxall despite riding his socks off.
BEARS: Richard Lawson 9+2, Hugh Skidmore 9+1, Aaron Summers 9, Jan Graversen 7, Rafal Konopka 5+1, Mark Lemon 5+1, Carl Wilkinson 4+1
ROCKETS: Steve Boxall 15+1, Edward Kennett 12, Jason Garrity 7+1, Luke Bowen 5+1, Oliver Greenwood 3+1, Aaron Fox 0, R/R Anders Mellgren.
WATCH and listen to team manager Jitendra Duffill’s reaction at www.gazettelive.co.uk on Friday. More reaction in The Gazette and online on Saturday.