Edinburgh Monarchs were unable to complete the double against Ipswich Witches this week as the leaders claimed a 51-44 victory in their Premier League return fixture at Foxhall Heath last night.
The Monarchs were unable to show the level of consistency that saw them crush Witches at Armadale on Tuesday night as Ipswich gained a measure of revenge.
Not even a bedrock 18-point tally from No. 1 Craig Cook could swing the match in Monarchs’ favour, but the 26-year-old, who defeated Witches No. 1 Ben Barker no fewer than three times, showed the damage he could have done in Monarchs’ earlier League Cup semi-final at the Suffolk venue had he not been thrown out of that clash for punching Barker. Ipswich toiled a little before putting Monarchs to the sword, and only led by four points after heat seven, but two 5-1 advantages in successive races widened that gap to twelve points by heat nine.
This prompted Monarchs to bring out Jozsef Tabaka for a tactical ride in the next heat but the Hungarian could only finish second, resulting in a shared 4-4. Cook was then given a tactical outing in heat 11, which he won comfortably, and this 6-3 saw Monarchs cut their hosts lead to nine points.
Reserve ace Max Fricke, who struggled to cope with the heavy track conditions, did however produce a stunning ride to beat Rohan Tungate in heat 12 and with Theo Pijper in third place, Monarchs grabbed a important 4-2 and had the Witches back in their sights again. However with the last three races all shared, Ipswich clung on for victory, which almost certainly ensures they will finish in pole position in the table before the cut-off date for the play-off position closes at midnight on Monday.
Monarchs co-promoter John Campbell couldn’t believe his side ended up with nothing. He said: “It was disappointing to leave without getting a point because I thought we had everything going for us towards the end of the meeting, but we’ll have to change our policy for gate positions in heat 15.
“Once again we got the worse berths in the last race which meant we were unable to do better than a 3-3. Craig won the race, but the way he was going he would have won off any gate.”
For skipper Derek Sneddon, it was another nightmare as he failed to score and fell off twice. Campbell was almost benevolent in his criticism. He said: “I’m afraid to say when we were forced to run this fixture it was always going to be a problem for Derek, who had his testimonial meeting tonight very much on his mind and simply couldn’t get round the place.”
Asked whether Sneddon should have still been able to lead irrespective of his testimonial thoughts, Campbell replied: “If we are talking about a blame situation, there were others in the team who did not do very well either. Claus (Vissing), for example, had a reasonable first race, then did nothing after that.
“This is a man who has ridden Ipswich many times but was nowhere. But we didn’t have enough race winners and they were too strong for us.
“Ipswich are very strong round their own track and al of their side are capable of winning races. I think we scared them, though, and if Ipswich do finish top of the league to give them choice of opponents in their play-off section, I don’t think they will choose us.”
• Ipswich: Barker 10, Tungate 9, Heeps 8, Risager 8, Lanham 6, Hawkins 6, Ellis 4.
Monarchs: Cook 18, Tabaka 10, Fricke 6, Pijper 5, Vissing 4, Sarjeant 1, Sneddon 0.