Already through to the League Cup speedway Final, Edinburgh Monarchs look hot favourites to contest the Knockout Cup Final too after demolishing Newcastle Diamonds 56-34 in last night’s semi-final first-leg clash at Armadale Stadium.
And with the Capital side having already booked their spot in the championship play-off semi-finals, it’s not inconceivable that Monarchs stand on the brink of a successive trophy treble in 2015 which, by anyone’s standards, would be an incredible achievement.
Not for the first time this season Newcastle were the latest visiting side to arrive laden with injury problems and struggling to find the right blen in their team.
They drafted in former Monarchs captain Matthew Wethers for injured reserve Tero Arnio beefing them up at the tail end. However, their intended guest for the stricken Lewis Kerr, Kenneth Hansen, came a cropper in Denmark in midweek leaving the Tynesiders with no choice but to throw National League star Liam Carr into the main body of their team.
It was a tough gig for the Buxton starlet, who failed to score from his first two rides, and as a consequence Newcastle were left somewhat exposed.
Monarchs welcomed back skipper Craig Cook who missed his side’s trip to Ipswich Witches on Thursday due to a virus and although he wasn’t 100 per cent fit it didn’t show as he blasted to victory in the first race combining with team-mate Justin Sedgmen for a 5-1 and thus sending an instant message to their rivals that the KO Cup means a lot to Monarchs and they have no intention of releasing their grip on the silverware.
The next race was shared 3-3, Simon Nielsen winning it for Newcastle, but Wethers came down after running into the back of Monarchs reserve Rob Branford and was excluded. He was taken to hospital after complaining of pain to his right shoulder amid fears he had broken his collarbone. It was another big blow for the Diamonds as Wethers, with his experience, had the potential to score some good points at reserve for them.
And it didn’t really get any better for Newcastle when they lost two 4-2s in a row as Monarchs led 19-11 after just four races. And the home side extended that advantage to ten points, 23-13, after another 4-2 in heat six as the Diamonds were yet to exude any sparkle.
Monarchs’ Californian rider Aaron Fox, who quit the club at the end of last season, made a surprise centre green appearance and stated how much he missed speedway in the UK.
Fox will certainly have been mighty impressed at how well his former side are still doing this season and with Ludvig Lindgren one of the few Diamonds stars taking the fight to Monarchs, Fox may well regret not returning for a second season at Armadale.
Monarchs stepped up another gear in heat eight with a 5-1 from Sedgmen and Branford over Carr and Simon Nielsen.
This was Carr’s second third place of the evening making up for his earlier non-scoring outings, and credit to him for that. Monarchs were well in the driving seat now and a further 5-1 from Kevin Wolbert and Erik Riss in heat nine saw Monarchs lead 35-19, the match all but over as a contest.
It was getting humiliating for Newcastle now as they surrendered their third 5-1 in a row in the tenth race as Monarchs’ opening pairing Cook and Sedgmen stretched the gap to 40-20.
Sam Masters and Max Clegg added yet another 5-1 for Monarchs in heat 11. Rain could have ended Newcastle’s agony in heat 12 but it stopped and they eventually went down by 22 points despite a last heat 5-1 and they have a mountain to climb in the second leg on Tyneside a week tomorrow.
Monarchs ace Rob Branford said: “A big win for us and a big lead to take to Newcastle, who were very unlucky to lose Matty Wethers early on.
“Conditions were a bit tricky when it rained for a short time, but a great result for the whole team.”
Monarchs: Wolbert 12, Masters 11, Sedgmen 11, Cook 7, Riss 6, Clegg 5, Branford 4.
Newcastle: Lindgren 11, Worrall 9, Rosen 7, Nielsen 5, Carr 2, Wethers 0.