Scunthorpe Scorpions fell down on the job at Armadale last night as Edinburgh Monarchs stormed to an easy 56-36 Premier League speedway victory, the first reverse the English outfit have suffered this season.
The Scorpions stung themselves in the tail with a rash of fallers and retirements which robbed them of at least eight or nine points, undermining any threat they might have posed to the Monarchs, whose rampant home form is a major worry for any visiting rivals.
Scunthorpe had more tumbles than a circus clown on a dry Lothian Arena circuit, which seemed to catch a lot of people out – including a couple of Monarchs stars. Dane Claus Vissing struggled early on and only managed a single race win, achieved in heat 13 over Scorpions No. 1 Josh Auty, whose eventual six-point tally will have been something of a personal disappointment for him.
However, Vissing did not see a problem with the track, revealing: “I thought the track was alright, but my bike set-up was a bit weak for the conditions and made it spin on the corners. I managed to sort things out in the pits before my final ride and it seemed to work, but I did [take] a while to get going.”
Dutch ace Theo Pijper wasn’t immune to the arid track surface either, even although he turned in another solid display with 13 points from his five starts. His only defeat came at the hands of Auty in the fifth heat. Mind you, a lot of onlookers thought Pijper had pipped his rival on the line.
Pijper said: “The track was a bit tricky because we are not used to the dry shale. It was hard getting into the corners and some of us coped with it better than others.”
The Scorpions only managed three heat successes, one of them a tactical ride 7-2 advantage in heat 11 when Ashley Birks and Auty took care of Vissing and Jozsef Tabaka with considerable ease, but too many self-inflicted wounds by Scunthorpe allowed Monarchs to coast over the winning line without ever looking troubled. Home captain Derek Sneddon, who snatched eight points which encompassed a single race win against David Howe and promising reserve Lewis Blackbird in heat eight, was highly satisfied with the winning tendencies Monarchs are showing at the moment.
“This was a great result for us and everybody worked hard,” he said. “Scunthorpe have been a bit of a bogey team for us in the past, but we pulled out a big home and we have to be happy with the way things are going for us right now.”
Not everything was gilt edged for Monarchs. After impressing with two decent displays against Plymouth Devils last weekend, Mitchell Davey looked like a fish out of water and toiled a bit in the sun.
He scored three points, but two of them were gifts, and the former Glasgow Tiger was not entirely happy to be brought back down to earth with a bump. “I struggled a bit out there, the track was catching a lot of people out. I wasn’t far off the pace, but couldn’t seem to pass any opponents consistently enough. After my showing a week ago, I was a bit disappointed with my performance this time, but I’ll just keep going out there to try my best.”
Young Max Fricke was also in the doldrums for the second home match in a row. He wasn’t out of contention, but he couldn’t seem to get going with any degree of conviction and was frustrated that he didn’t score more than the two points he gained overall.
For No. 1 rdier Craig Cook, it was just another day at the office as he raced to a paid 14-point maximum. Cook’s best race came in heat 13 when he produced a fantastic burst of speed coming off the fourth bend to pip Auty on the line for second place behind his partner Vissing.
Cook, who is picking up a clutch of guest bookings all over the country, befitting his growing status in the Premier League, said: “Scunthorpe did have a lot of bad luck with their riders falling off or retiring with bike problems, but we were always in control of the meeting and I never felt we were under any great threat.”
The Scorpions, who used rider replacement for the injured Thomas Jorgensen, can salute top-scorer Birks, who amassed 15 points from his six outings and saved his side from a bigger hiding. Their other notable performer was Blackbird, who was recently signed to beef up the tail end. The son of former Monarch Carl Blackbird is proving to be a handy addition to the Scorpions squad. His eight-point tally was well deserved, as was his victory in the penultimate over Davey and Fricke.
Monarchs will be glad to have taken the scalp of the defending league champions. It could have been a tricky test, but in the end it was pretty straightforward for the Capital outfit, who are a bit of a roll and will hope it continues.
Monarchs: Cook 14, Pijper 13, Tabaka 8, Sneddon 8, Vissing 8, Davey 3, Fricke 2.
Scunthorpe: Birks 15, Blackbird 8, Auty 6, Howe 3, Palm-Toft 3, Douglas 1.