Edinburgh Monarchs equalled Arena Essex’s unbeaten tally of 23 matches in a row after a tense Premier League speedway derby against Glasgow Tigers in dustbowl conditions at Ashfield Stadium yesterday.
On a day when No.1 rider Craig Cook posted his lowest score of the season, Monarchs had to dig deep to eke out a narrow 47-43 victory against a rejuvenated Tigers squad who came perilously close to handing Monarchs their first reverse of 2014.
After jumping into an eight-point lead after just five heats, Monarchs lost their way a little and were only four points to the good with two races left. However, a brilliant win by Stevie Worrall in heat 14 gave Monarchs some wriggle room going into the pressure cooker heat 15 top scorers’ race. Monarchs chose to go with Cook and Max Fricke, who had conjured up some track magic to blaze past former Monarchs captain Theo Pijper to take the chequered flag in a pivotal heat-12 race. Tigers went with their big guns Kevin Wolbert and Rusty Harrison, who was riding out of his skin and had only lost to Justin Sedgmen.
The Tigers pair shot into the first bend in a 5-1 position, which would have been good enough to earn their side a draw. But Cook, who was desperate to atone for failing to win a race all afternoon, made up at least 20 yards to reel in Harrison who was lying in second place with Wolbert already over the horizon. But Harrison in a bid to regain his position, slid off on the fourth bend and the race was awarded with the 3-3 verdict, clinching the match for Monarchs.
But for Sedgmen, who scored ten points and won three races, the victory was bittersweet and he was deeply unhappy afterwards at being overlooked for the heat 15 showdown.
The Aussie said: “I took a hit for the team and not for the first time. I felt good, but Edinburgh don’t reward you for winning races and making starts. They put two guys into that last heat who weren’t really making starts.
“I wanted to go out and that was the plan. I had ridden well all day. You do your bit to try and get rewarded and you don’t get it. Craig had an off day and I stepped up and Sam (Masters) also struggled. This is not the first time this has happened to me. I’m glad we won and we were lucky – but something needs to happen.”
Team manager Alex Harkess, who made the heat 15 call, responded: “Justin did very well, but Max in his previous race had shown so much power to come from the back and nobody else was doing that. We needed at least a 4-2 and if both of our riders had missed the gate we required somebody with the capability to overtake – and that’s why we also went with Craig, who is a pressure situation man.
“I know Justin had gated well and I have no argument with that, but we had a choice to make and we made the choice and it got us the result. Sometimes it will work in Justin’s favour but at the end of the day we made a choice and went with it.”
Co-promoter John Campbell conceded Monarchs were less than regal, saying: “We have had better meetings away from home this year. And Glasgow were probably the best team we have come up against so far.
“They have a decent squad, but there is always pressure when you go to Ashfield no matter what the match is. I’m just pleased we got there in the end.”
Tigers gaffer Stewart Dickson was pleased his team gave Monarchs a close fight but admitted: “I feel a slight tinge of disappointment. We lost a 5-1 against us in the third race and we were never able to pull it back and some of our lads felt a bit flat in the pits – they sensed things were running away from them.
“I think, though, that some of our team were a bit indifferent and Edinburgh could probably say the same, but it was a good Scottish derby and we ran them close and that was important.
“Edinburgh are not unbeaten for nothing – there is a reason for it, and they showed real spirit. Edinburgh were the better team and there is no harm in saying that.”
Glasgow: Harrison 14, Wolbert 10, Pijper 7, Thomsen 5, Campton 4, Lykke 3.
Monarchs: Sedgmen 10, Worrall 10, Fricke 8, Masters 7, Cook 7, Sneddon 5, Fox 0.