Speedway: Monarchs into League Cup semi-finals

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EDINBURGH MONARCHS eased into speedway’s League Cup semi-finals after an untroubled 56-36 victory over arch-rivals Glasgow Tigers in last night’s group qualifying tie at Armadale Stadium.

While the Tigers were marginally more competitive than they were on their Spring Cup visit last month, Monarchs won just as easily as the score suggests.

The meeting proved to be a personal highlight for Monarchs in-form reserve Jozsef Tabaka, who raced to a 14 paid maximum from his five starts, a performance which earned the likeable Hungarian star the Monarch of the Match award.

Tabaka has been racking up double-figure scores practically at will so far this season and he said after receiving his champagne: “I was very happy with the way I rode and I always look to do my best in every meeting I race in.

“Although the track was a bit heavy, it was in very raceable condition, but it helped that I made some good starts from the tapes. It’s always easier if you can get into the first bend ahead of everybody else.

“I think the reason I’m scoring so well is down to my equipment. I’m really happy with how my bikes are performing and when I move into the team from reserve in a few weeks, I still think I can score just as many points as I’m doing from reserve.”

The same praise cannot be lavished on Tabaka’s tail-end partner Marcel Helfer, who looked very ill at ease. Though he picked up two points, they were gift points. Helfer did himself no favours by looking so timid and it was rumoured after the meeting that the Monarchs management are poised to axe him before their Premier League clash against Plymouth Devils on Friday.

Monarchs British finalist Craig Cook also picked up 14 points, but he yielded his only dropped point to the opposition when Tigers’ James Wright kept him at bay in heat 10, an outcome nobody would have put their mortgage on.

“I just couldn’t get past James,” said Cook. “I tried the outside and the inside lines, but he managed to hold on for the win.”

That was one of the few Tigers success stories over the course of the contest, a 5-1 by their captain Joe Screen and Joey Ringwood over Theo Pijper and Max Fricke in the first half their only other noteworthy effort.

Pijper was riding under the handicap of suffering from tonsillitis, yet the Dutchman still produced three race wins from his ten-point haul and admitted Monarchs’ victory was a pretty straightforward affair.

“It was a win that caused us not too many problems”, he said.” I was happy enough with the points I scored and probably could have managed a couple more, but I was lacking physical strength a little because I wasn’t feeling that good.

“Glasgow were a bit better than they were in the Spring Trophy and some of their younger lads are coming on quite nicely, as is our own Max Fricke.”

Fricke, in fact, rattled up five points from his programmed outings, a second place behind team-mate Tabaka in Monarchs’ 5-1 advantage in the penultimate race, his best race of their evening.

Claus Vissing looked slightly uncomfortable following his tumble at Scunthorpe on Monday. However, the Dane finished on seven points, which included a sole race win in heat seven. He reflected: “I didn’t feel exactly 100 per cent, but I was satisfied enough with how I rode. More importantly, it was a good victory by the whole team and to qualify for the semi-finals of the League Cup so early is very good for us.”

Glasgow’s scoring was reasonably solid and it was Screen who top scored with nine points, his only race win coming in heat 11 when he defeated Vissing, but overall the Ashfield men were lacking in damaging firepower and were outscored at reserve by an incredible 14-point margin. That tells its own story.

Screen’s experienced colleague James Grieves, a former Monarch, looked a bit jaded round his old hunting ground and would have hoped for a better score than the seven points he eventually ended up with.

In short, Monarchs are now through to the semi-finals of the League Cup and the quarter-finals of the KO Cup. It also seems likely that Helfer will definitely be replaced before these ties come around.

Monarchs: Tabaka 14, Cook 14, Pijper 10, Vissing 7, Fricke 5, Sneddon 4, Helfer 2.

Glasgow: Screen 9, Ringwood 7, Wright 7, Grieves 7, Bager 4, Jacobs 2, Horwood 0.