Battling Edinburgh Monarchs produced a rabbit out of the hat in the shape of reserve ace Kyle Howarth to save their blushes in a thriller of a Premier League clash against Somerset Rebels at Armadale last nIght, which ended in a splendid 46-46 draw.
But in truth, Monarchs were on the ropes in the first half, as the Rebels, minus three of their regular team, stormed into what looked like an unassailable 31-19 lead after just eight races.
Then slowly Monarchs began to awake from their slumber in the second half and a great 5-1 from Kevin Wolbert and Craig Cook in heat 13 over Sam Masters and James Wright had cut the Rebels lead to just four points.
But just when Monarchs were on the brink of a possible outright victory, disaster struck in the next heat when skipper Matthew Wethers fell off on the third bend after his front wheel was taken away by Rebels star Alex Davies.
All Davies and partner Ashley Birks had to do in the rerun was keep Howarth at bay, and given that the teenager had done nothing all evening, it seemed a dead certainty that the visitors would procure the advantage they required to seal the match.
But against the odds, Howarth powered to the front to earn a 3-3 to keep his side just four points adrift with one race left. And in that heat 15 finale, Cook and Wolbert proved to be heroes again as they left Rebels guest ace and former Monarchs skipper Derek Sneddon chasing air as they powered to a 5-1 advantage to earn a shock draw.
Howarth, who won the man of the match award for his penultimate race heroics said: “I just didn’t shut off, I went for it and just closed my eyes when I went in to the first corner.
“I should have been doing that all night, but I wasn’t, I was a bit like a woman!”
He added: “It was a disappointing meeting for me overall, I wasn’t gating and this made it very hard. But all the lads worked as a team and we got a draw in the end.
“I’ve been struggling for the past few weeks to be honest, but that win in heat 14 has done my confidence no end of good, and I just hope I can score even more points over the last few weeks of the season.”
The Rebels chose Sneddon, Michal Rajkowski and Ashley Birks to cover for their injured trio and boy did Birks and Sneddon make life tough for Monarchs. Sneddon has barely looked faster round his former circuit and his 12-point haul, which included three wins, reminded Monarchs fans of the good times he once enjoyed in the Capital club’s colours
Sneddon commented afterwards: “If I had ridden like that a few years ago, Monarchs might not have sacked me!”
Sheffield Tigers young gun Birks was on fire and also bagged 12 points, and his tail-end partnership with Davies, who picked up nine points, should have swung the result in the Rebels’ favour.
However, Rebels team manager Garry May was philosophical at his team’s failure to inflict a second home defeat this season on Monarchs, saying: “I’m a bit gutted we lost the match, but Monarchs had the riders’ and came back strongly at us over the last few races.
“The heat 14 race was the turning point, when Wethers came down, we thought, that’s it. But young Howarth popped out and won the rerun for Edinburgh, and that type of thing happens so often in speedway.
“But I’m more than happy that we walked away with two match points.”
Once again Wolbert was king for the Monarchs, the German romping to a 13-point total from his five rides, and his best support came from Cook who bagged ten points.
But rightly, it was Howarth who gave the Rebels cause to feel aggrieved.
Monarchs: Wolbert 13, Cook 10, Wethers 8, Tully 6, Howarth 5, Katajisto 4, Perry 0.
Somerset: Sneddon 12, Birks 12, Wright 10, Davies 9, Masters 2, Rajkowski 1.