Edinburgh Monarchs’ Craig Cook was thrown out of last night’s League Cup semi-final second leg clash at Ipswich Witches for ungentlemanly conduct after throwing a punch at Witches skipper Ben Barker.
As a consequence, Monarchs’ hopes of reaching the final hits the skids as the Witches ran out easy 57-37 winners, comfortably overturning their six-point first leg arrears to triumph 99-85 on aggregate.
It’s no secret that Cook and Barker have been sniping at each other ever since the former was called in to replace the Monarchs No. 1 after he was axed from Team GB’s World Cup squad following a poor debut at King’s Lynn almost a fortnight ago.
Referee Dan Holt was called to the pits after the opening race in which Cook finished third, and Barker last, and disqualified Cook from the rest of the meeting for his actions. His surprise decision infuriated Monarchs team manager John Campbell who has already lodged an official protest which will be heard in due course by the Speedway Control Bureau.
Campbell said: “The referee excluded Craig from the meeting for throwing a punch at Barker and that’s all I can say. I have made an official protest and we will see what develops from there.
“It absolutely killed the match as a contest. It was such a shame for everybody, but no doubt the Ipswich fans were delighted because it was made far easier for their team than it would have been.
“We battled really hard and it was a shame we were not given a fair chance. We lost three 5-1s in the races Craig should have been in. If they had been 3-3s that would have made the final score somewhat different.”
Campbell refused to say if Cook had been provoked on his return to the pits, and asked if he thought his star performer was perhaps guilty of being unprofessional. He replied: “I don’t wish to comment on that.”
Campbell did agree that it was highly unusual for a referee to ban a rider from a meeting for striking out at an opponent, and said: “I don’t think I have experienced it before, not that I can recall. It goes on in the pits at meetings every week. It was very disappointing to have travelled all the way to Ipswich and have the match taken from us after just one race.” Cook, who has been cleared to ride against Berwick Bandits tonight, remained tight-lipped about the incident and would only say: “I will be making an official statement on my website later today. I don’t want to comment further because I want it to be correctly worded.”
Cook added: “I feel gutted and it was very unsatisfactory. If the referee had just fined me, fair enough, but to be fined and thrown out of the whole match, I don’t quite understand it. But I cannot appeal his decision. It’s all done and dusted now.”
Club director Mike Hunter commented: “Perhaps Craig should not have got involved, but we don’t want to say too much, we want to consider the matter first. But it’s clear that whatever has been going on between Craig and Barker, it needs to calm down.”
As to the actual match, Monarchs were only eight points down thanks to a 5-1 by Theo Pijper and Max Fricke in heat ten, but after that the Witches picked up maximum advantages from three of the last five heats to close the door on their rivals, whose run of recent away success has come to an abrupt and slightly unedifying end, and with their home loss to Newcastle still hurting, Monarchs need to go out against the Bandits at Armadale this evening and turn on the style big time.
Ipswich: Tungate 15, Lanham 10, Ellis 9, Heeps 8, Risager 6, Barker 6,Hawkins 3.
Monarchs: Vissing 12, Pijper 9, Sneddon 6, Tabaka 5, Fricke 4, Cook 1, Davey 0.