Edinburgh Monarchs held a beach party at Armadale last night but nearly ended up getting sand kicked in their faces by a hungry Leicester Lions side who will feel slightly aggrieved at having lost the Premier League speedway clash 52-37, a scoreline which definitely flattered the home side.
Monarchs trailed 29-25 after heat nine and at that stage few people would have bet on their chances of turning things around. Sometimes, though, when you are not riding that well, luck can play its part.
And Monarchs grabbed a huge slice of it in the very next race when Craig Cook and Derek Sneddon romped to a 5-0 advantage after Lions ace Kauko Nieminen suffered a broken cable then watched in disbelief as his teammate Kevin Doolan was disqualified after leaving the track in a bid to miss Cook who had pulled a big locker in front of him.
“That was a bit harsh,” said Lions team manager Glyn Taylor, “but sometimes you have to take the good with the bad.”
This good fortune seemed to galvanise Monarchs who rattled in a trio of 5-1s over the final five races to crawl over the line to claim all three match points. Monarchs were also helped by an engine failure which forced Doolan to retire in heat 14.
Without question, Monarchs toiled in the reserve positions. Max Fricke, who got himself caught in no man’s land on a couple of occasions, looked a bit ill at ease and posted his only win of the meeting in the penultimate race.
Mitchell Davey’s stand-in, Tommy Fenwick, tried his best but failed to score. By contrast Leicester’s tail-end duo of Robert Branford and Adam Ellis had a joyous time mopping up 16 points between them, and this brilliant effort enabled Leicester to keep Monarchs in check for long periods before falling away at the death.
Cook dropped his only point in heat one to Nieminen but was unbeaten thereafter, however it was Dane Claus Vissing, who looks like he has found the right bike set-up for Armadale, who caught the eye for the second week in row.
The tall Dane picked up 12 points from his five starts and his victory in his third ride over Nieminen and Branford in heat 11 was a critical success for the whole Monarchs team.
“I felt pretty good,” said Vissing, “It was a very hard and tough match, but we all responded to the job in hand in the second half and got the result we wanted in the end.”
The fixture also marked the return from injury of Jozsef Tabaka and the Hungarian ace was workmanlike with seven points from four rides. Still nursing a sore foot, Tabaka said: “I was in a little pain at the end, but I didn’t mind, I was happy with how I rode in my first match back and hopefully I will get to full fitness over the coming weeks.”
Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess confessed his side “got away with it” despite not riding to their true heights and said: “We struggled, and we struggled for long periods. And to win by the margin we did, I simply did not see that coming.
“We lost a 5-1 for instance in the heat two reserves race, which was a crucial reverse, and we had to play catch up after that, and it took us a while before we actually caught up.
“We were helped by Doolan’s engine failure in heat 14, but we were going to get a 3-3 anyway which was enough to win us the meeting, but I can’t deny we struggled.”
Monarchs Dutch star Theo Pijper, who has been in the wars physically and financially, once again showed some true grit despite trailing in last in his opening ride. Pijper finished up on eight points which encompassed a brace of wins in heats five and nine.
“It was a hard match but everybody buckled down, Leicester are a good team so we knew it wouldn’t be easy,” he said.
“We pulled ourselves together in the second half and it was great to take all three points.”
Leicester, who surrendered their top-of-the-table status to Workington a few days ago, might be rueful of the fact that two of their top men Nieminen and Doolan only picked up one point between in their last two rides each.
Manager Taylor was philosophical and added: “The track was perhaps a little slick but I don’t think that handed any great advantage to the Monarchs team, who rode tenaciously in the second half.
“I have no complaints about the result and only have praise for our two reserves Adam and Robert who rode out of their skins, it’s the best they have ridden all season.
“Perhaps we deserved to leave with a point, but it did not happen, and you have to accept that sometimes in speedway and move on.”
Leicester’s on-fire reserve partnership outscored Fricke and Fenwick by ten points overall, and Fricke commented: “Their guys rode well and Leicester are a really good side, and we knew that.
“I had a bit of a rough start when I got excluded from one of my races, but that apart I was pretty satisfied with my performance. The important thing was that everybody in our side tried, and even although the track was a bit slick, it was the same for everybody. It was just satisfying to win the match because I thought we deserved to for all the effort we put in.”
Monarchs: Cook 13, Vissing 12, Pijper 8, Tabaka 7, Sneddon 6, Fricke 6, Fenwick 0.
Leicester: Branford 9, Nieminen 8, Ellis 7, North 6, Doolan 4, Graversen 3.