Edinburgh Monarchs’ play-off group blown wide open

Theo Pijper dives between Kyle Howarth (red) and Chris Schramm at Workington. Picture: Ron MacNeill
Theo Pijper dives between Kyle Howarth (red) and Chris Schramm at Workington. Picture: Ron MacNeill
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Edinburgh Monarchs’ Premier League play-off group was blown wide open last night when Workington Comets pulled off a shock 47-43 win at Ipswich Witches, a result which now makes the battle to reach the Grand Final almost impossible to predict.

Monarchs’ wretched scoring inconsistency, which has afflicted the ‘engine room’ of the squad, was the root cause of their failure to win at Workington in their opening Group B fixture last weekend and it was a golden opportunity missed that could easily come back to bite them.

The Comets snatched three priceless points to redress the single point they dropped at home to Monarchs last weekend. Monarchs entertain the Cumbrian outfit at Armadale tonight in a match which has now dramatically increased in importance. Monarchs must also hope that Ipswich can gain revenge for their loss when they travel to face Workington at Derwent Park tomorrow night.

Monarchs missed a golden chance to actually win their fixture at Workington and this could come back to bite them big style in view of the upset at Ipswich. But in truth Monarchs have been performing a high-wire act recently and the only the phenomenal scoring of No. 1 Craig Cook, who has become the first Monarchs rider since George Hunter in 1963 to attain an away average of over eleven, has prevented them from losing their footing completely.

Monarchs have shuffled their riding order in a bid to restore some solidity in the scoring ranks with Claus Vissing pulling on the No. 3 race jacket as Theo Pijper drops down to No. 5 from No. 3. This willl see Pijper paired with a reserve in three of his outings – something which left Vissing totally exposed.

Pijper said: “I liked riding at No. 3 and I don’t quite know why they have swapped things around, I think Claus needs a bit of a confidence boost which may be the reason.

“It means I’ll be out in heat 13 and off the outside gate, but I can handle that.”

The Dutchman doesn’t entirely agree that Monarchs slipped up at Workington. “We had some bad luck during the match at times and I had to lay down my bike when we were on a 5-1 then got run over by Kyle Howarth, but I managed two race wins in spite of that and was reasonably happy with my seven-point display.

“Perhaps we needed to have stepped up a bit more, but Workington are a decent side at home and that shouldn’t be forgotten. They also had Chris Schramm in at reserve for Ashley Morris and he scored 13 points, which was far more than Ashley would have got. I’m not convinced that Ipswich will definitely win at Workington, I don’t think they are any better than we are down there.”

It’s absolutely vital that Monarchs pick up all three points this evening and Pijper is urging his team-mates to go flat out from the start, warning: “If we are not up for it then we could easily drop points and that would be a disaster all round. “Workington, after dropping a home point to us, will want to do well for obvious reasons, and they have guys in their team who know Armadale pretty well. Everybody needs to be on their game and we must try to rediscover our scoring touch which has been absent, especially on the road in recent weeks. It could well be that it comes down to ourselves and Ipswich to decide who wins our group, If it does, then nobody should rule us out of winning at Ipswich, we are capable of achieving that, of course we also must ensure we defeat them at Armadale too.”

Although Workington have named Tero Aarnio in their starting line-up, the injury he picked up in Sweden last week seems likely to keep him sidelined again and the rider replacement facility will probably operate once more.

Monarchs, meanwhile, have snapped up Liam Carr to guest for Mitchell Davey, and his partnership with Max Fricke at reserve should be a productive one. Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess said: “ I was quite pleased with what we got at Workington and more importantly everybody chipped in with something.

“We can’t worry about what others are doing, we need to concentrate on our own performances, and that means you have got to defend at home. If we don’t get all three points tonight, it will be hugely disappointing, and I’m looking for a big effort from everybody.”