SHEFFIELD seized control of their Championship Shield group after a 51-39 win at Redcar on Friday.
The Tigers took all four available points at the Media Prima Arena, meaning as long as they avoid defeat at Newcastle on Sunday, the Steel City side are guaranteed a place in the semi-finals.
Former Bears rider Charles Wright piled up 15 points on his return to Teesside with reserve James Shanes and Todd Kurtz also in double-figures. Guest Ty Proctor scored 11+1 for the hosts with Ben Barker on 10.
Sheffield boss Simon Stead was delighted with his team's efforts and pinpointed the rider replacement cover for Josh Bates as a major contributing factor.
“In the main we've covered it okay just about, but tonight that was probably the key difference in the end," Stead said.
“To get ten points from those four rides was crucial and the boys deserve full credit for that.
“It's nice to head to Newcastle on Sunday knowing what we need to do, but these have been two good wins over Redcar over the past two nights and I'm really proud of the team.”
RICKY Wells scored a 15-point maximum as Edinburgh recorded a hard-fought 51-39 win over Berwick at Armadale.
The Monarchs only held a two-point lead after eleven races in the Championship Shield clash but pulled clear in the closing stages to deny the Bandits any reward.
Wells was backed up by reserve Josh Pickering with 11+1 and Mark Riss on 10+1, whilst Berwick skipper Kevin Doolan gave a vintage display to pile up 13+3 from six rides.
Edinburgh boss Alex Harkess said: “It was a much better match than last week on a good track, and most of our side performed well enough.
“There are still a few things to work on. I was delighted to see Ricky Wells gating so well.”
Berwick manager Scott Courtney said: “By our history here, this wasn't a bad performance at all, keeping it really tight for most of the match and with a decent spirit more like our usual selves.
“It's a huge pity Jye (Etheridge) had to be withdrawn, and we now hope he will be fit as soon as possible, with particular emphasis on Saturday night otherwise we will need to organise a guest for him.
“But overall we were much improved tonight and that's a positive. It's just a shame we had to settle for no points.”
BERWICK will come up against their No.1 rider of last season when they host Lakeside in tonight’s (Saturday) Championship fixture.
Nick Morris enjoyed a successful stint with the Bandits in 2017, culminating in winning the individual riders’ title, but switched to Purfleet over the winter as the Hammers stepped up a level.
Morris makes his first return to Shielfield Park tonight with his side forced into once change as Ulrich Ostergaard guests for Adam Ellis (SEC duty).
Lakeside boss Will Pottinger said: “With the way we’re going, everyone is having fun and looking forward to meetings so we’re hoping to keep that going this weekend.
“It’s a long trip but we want to come back with another win under our belts and I believe we’re more than capable of doing that.”
EASTBOURNE host Belle Vue in a repeat of last season’s National League Grand Final tonight (Saturday).
The Eagles finished top of the table in 2017 but were beaten over two legs by the Colts in the decisive fixtures – condemning the Arlington side to runners-up spot for the third year running.
Boss Connor Dugard said: “That is something we aim to put right this year and take the title.
“There’s no better way of setting out on that quest by than getting a convincing victory over the defending champions.”
Eastbourne bring in Danyon Hume as a guest at No.1 with Mark Baseby unavailable, whilst the Colts are at full strength.
Belle Vue’s in-form Joe Lawlor said: “It’s going to be a tough meeting. Eastbourne are a very strong team, especially on their home track so we’ll need to be on form if we want to make an impact on them.
“Their reserves are capable riders and Jason Edwards, on his day, can score double figures. But as long as our guys score their average and we all put in 100 percent we stand a good chance.”
MILDENHALL aim to get their 2018 season underway at the fourth time of asking when they host Stoke at West Row tonight (Saturday).
Promoter Kevin Jolly is happy enough to be going straight into National League competition and feels recent guest bookings for his riders elsewhere will stand them in good stead to face the Potters.
He said: “We certainly will not be taking anything for granted, but I know the lads are bursting to put on a real performance so let’s look forward to a special evening under lights.
“They have been getting in practise wherever possible and some have already had guest bookings and met with plenty of success on their travels, which can only be good for us when we visit.
“There is a real feel-good feeling around the club as we approach this season and a good win will be the perfect way to get started.”
Potters boss Malcolm Vasey said: “It’s going to be a very tough meeting as Mildenhall are a team full of youthful and exciting riders, and you cannot spot a weak link in their line-up - but anyone can have a bad day at the office from time to time, and we have to hope that they do against us on Saturday.
“We have riders that go well around West Row, and we will be going there to give it a go and see what we can get out of the meeting.”
SATURDAY APRIL 28:
CHAMPIONSHIP: Berwick v Lakeside 7pm
TRAVEL PLUS NATIONAL LEAGUE: Eastbourne v Belle Vue 7.30, Mildenhall v Stoke OFF
SUNDAY APRIL 29:
CHAMPIONSHIP SHIELD: Newcastle v Sheffield 6.30
NATIONAL TROPHY: Buxton v Birmingham 3pm, Coventry v Cradley 3pm
MONDAY APRIL 30:
PREMIERSHIP: Belle Vue v Somerset 7.30, Leicester v Rye House 7.30, Wolverhampton v King’s Lynn 7.30
EASTER CUP 2nd leg: Kent v Birmingham 6.30
TUESDAY MAY 1:
BRITISH UNDER-21 FINAL: Berwick 7pm
Results Friday April 27, 2018
Edinburgh 51 (Ricky Wells 15)
Berwick 39 (Kevin Doolan 13+3)
Championship Shield points: Edinburgh 3 Berwick 0
Redcar 39 (Ty Proctor 11+1)
Sheffield 51 (Charles Wright 15)
Championship Shield points: Redcar 0 Sheffield 4
Plymouth v Isle of Wight - OFF