Skipper Derek Sneddon’s decision to rise from his sick bed to help Edinburgh Monarchs could be the biggest tonic they have received as they bid to reach the play-off Grand Final.
Sneddon’s commitment helped Monarchs ride to victory at Berwick Bandits on Saturday after he was laid low with a bout of food poisoning which kept him out of Friday’s Armadale encounter, and the chances of him competing in Saturday’s return tie at Shielfield Park looked slim.
But after Monarchs’ co-boss John Campbell was unable to secure a Premier League guest to cover for him, he desperately asked Sneddon if he thought he was fit enough and strong enough to ride a bike competitively.
Sneddon bravely agreed to give it a go – and not only turned in possibly his best performance at Berwick, but his ten-point total helped see off the Bandits to put Monarchs firmly in the driving seat in their group section, where they are unbeaten after two meetings.
Sneddon said: “I wouldn’t wish food poisoning on my worst enemy, but I did feel better than I had done on Friday. And when John told me he might have to drop down into the National League to find someone to replace me, I told him if he really needed me, I would try. I’m glad I did, and it paid off.
“Even if I had scored just two or three points and we got the match victory, I would still have been happy.”
Sneddon’s influence in the pits helped steady the Monarchs’ ship, which was in danger of running aground after going ten points behind after just eight races. “The first half of the meeting we really struggled,” said Sneddon. “But Edinburgh tend to come on strongly over the second half of meetings, especially away from home, and that’s exactly what happened once again.
“A few Berwick supporters were shocked at the 48-45 scoreline, because they were in easy street for a while.”
With a fair few races won from the gate, Sneddon’s ability to flash from the tapes ultimately proved crucial for a Monarchs side who were toiling due to mechanical problems suffered by Justin Sedgmen, which saw the normally consistent Australian fail to pick up a point.
“There was a lot more grip on the track, which I prefer, and being ahead going into the first corner was vital,” said Sneddon.
“Everybody has their off nights, as Justin had, but it’s up to the rest of us to step up to cover for them and that is the difference between a god team and a bad team.
“We just kept plugging away and showed our fighting spirit. There is no point in giving up, otherwise you shouldn’t be riding. You have always got to push right to the end.”
Sneddon added: “Winning at Berwick was so important for the whole team, but we are not thinking about the Grand Final yet. It’s a cliche, but it’s one match at a time – you can never get too ahead of yourselves, otherwise it comes back to bite you.”
Campbell was fulsome in praising Sneddon: “He was hanging on at the end, but he was marvellous – a true captain’s performance. Once he had agreed to ride I thought he’d just fill a gap, but he was as good as he’s ever been round Berwick.”
Monarchs’ final play-off group matches are against Workington Comets home and away this weekend.