Edinburgh Monarchs keep title hopes alive

Joszef Tabaka and Max Fricke in action last night. Picture: Ron MacNeill
Joszef Tabaka and Max Fricke in action last night. Picture: Ron MacNeill
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AFTER throwing a spanner in the Premier League play-off Group B works by winning at Ipswich Witches on Thursday, Workington Comets were brought crashing back down to earth by Edinburgh Monarchs at Armadale last night.

In a nervy encounter, Monarchs kept alive their chances of going for a fourth championship crown with a 52-38 victory, stunning the Comets by grabbing three 5-1 advantages in the final three races when it looked as if the Cumbrian outfit were on course to rob Monarchs of a point.

Monarchs are now on four points with home and away clashes against Ipswich still to come. Workington are on five and if they take all three points at stake in their home clash against Ipswich tonight at Derwent Park, they will end their campaign on eight points, which would set Monarchs a tough target of having to take something from their visit to Ipswich next Thursday to stay in contention.

It’s all to play for, but one has to wonder if Monarchs can solve their scattergun scoring, which is dragging them down at present and leaving them open to attack from teams who boast a solid scoring spine.

Predictably, it was Claus Vissing and skipper Derek Sneddon who couldn’t produce the goods when it mattered most. The pair only managed to bag eight point each and the unedifying sight of seeing them getting beaten by Workington’s reserve riders’ simply confirmed the thoughts of many that neither will be on Monarchs team roster for 2014.

No. 1 rider Craig Cook romped to another 15-point maximum, his third in the space of a week against the Comets. Cook, pictured left, was simply cruising and never looked in any great danger of being headed all night.

“Maximums don’t really mean too much to me,” he said. “I try to take each race as it comes and never think, ‘I’m going to get a maximum’, but when it happens it is nice. I do work hard and have done so all season. Even in between races I’m always thinking about things and how to improve.

“But fair play to Workington, they were really up for it and threw a really good challenge at us, and it looked at one stage as if they would nick a point because were on the ropes for a time.

“But this was a huge result for us. It was paramount we picked up all three points. Had we not, it could have been all over for us. However, we need to improve our gating. We were poor out of the starts, and Workington were quick by comparison.

“Now we need to do something at Ipswich to give us a chance of winning the league. I still think we can do it – I still believe in this team.”

While Vissing and Sneddon pottered around like aimless gardeners, Theo Pijper, who was switched to the No. 5 riding slot, produced a fiery display, picking up 11 points from his five outings which included two wins.

“I was trying out a couple of new engines,” said Pijper, “and they seemed to work okay for me. I was quite happy with how I rode. It was a great win we pulled out in the end and we must drive on now to try and reach the Grand Final.”

Team-mate Max Fricke was also in the points, shrugging off a nasty-looking tumble in heat four when he was hit by Comets’ ace Chris Mills. Fricke scored ten and conjured up three race victories, including a vital 5-1 with Jozsef Tabaka in heat 14.

Tabaka did not disappoint either and was workmanlike as he scored eight points, encompassing a win in his second ride.

Workington only trailed 37-35 at heat 12, but were blown away by Monarchs’ triple whammy of 5-1 advantages at the end. Comets team manager Tony Jackson was crestfallen afterwards, and admitted: “I think we deserved a point, especially as we only trailed by two after twelve races, but Edinburgh were very strong in heats 13 and 15 and knew they would come back at us.

“To lose three 5-1’s in a row was tough, yet I had a feeling it was coming, because they have done to us before at Armadale.

“It’s now important that we beat Ipswich tonight. And we certainly cannot let the good work we achieved at Ipswich get thrown away. But Ipswich will be doubly determined to get the points back so I think it could be quite a match.”

Workington’s top scorer was former Monarch Kyle Howarth, who had three wins on his way to a ten -point haul.

Monarchs: Cook 15, Pijper 11, Fricke 10, Tabaka 8, Sneddon 4, Vissing 4, Carr 0.

Workington: Howarth 10, Bach 8, Morris 8, Lawson 6, Harrison 3, Mills 3