On a night when Edinburgh Monarchs were not at their tip top best, they still managed to see off a determined challenge from Peterborough Panthers in their Premier League speedway clash at Armadale.
Monarchs ran out 51-42 winners to extend their unbeaten run to 21 matches.
But nobody was blowing out any candles as the Panthers came very close to earning a bonus point in the last heat. And it was only a trademark victory by Monarchs No.1 Craig Cook over Ulrich Ostergaard and Lasse Bjerre which denied the Panthers, who turned in the best performance from a visiting team this season at the Lothian Arena.
And one can only speculate on how close the Panthers might have run Monarchs had they not arrived without their Czech star Ales Drymel who was injured. To compound that blow, the Panthers top ace and former Monarch Ryan Fisher had a nightmare of a return to Armadale.
Fisher fell off in his first ride typically rushing into the fourth bend with all guns blazing. The Californian then slithered off in the back straight in his next outing and was forced to withdraw from the meeting with a shoulder injury forcing his rides to be covered by the Peterborough reserves.
Joe Jacobs stepped into the breach with some aplomb and his five-point total was perhaps not a fair reward for all the endeavour he displayed, notably in heat 14 when he combined with Ostergaard for a tremendous 5-1 against Monarchs skipper Derek Sneddon and Aaron Fox.
Sneddon who drops down to reserve from next week did not give any indication that he will flourish in this role. He picked up just four third places and was caught sleeping in the fifth race when Panthers’ young star Lewis Blackbird pipped him for second place just yards from the finishing line. Sneddon must step up his scoring rate otherwise Monarchs are going to look a tad fragile at the tail-end.
Fox did collect four points from his four outings and made a fantastically quick gate in heat 12 which helped him, and partner Max Fricke, gain a maximum heat advantage against Ostergaard and Jacobs just when the Panthers were turning the screw a little.
Fox won the ‘Monarch of the Match’ award and said: “I was pretty happy with how things went for me. I made some good gates and this is such an advantage in getting yourself out in front, I want to do that all the time.
“That heat 12 race was really good for me, I got into the first corner and held my place behind Max for the 5-1 we gained. I have just got to keep working away, but I’m so much enjoying myself riding for Monarchs.”
The only opposition rider to get the better of Cook was Bjerre who rode a splendidly determined race in heat 13 to head the Monarch home.
“Peterborough rode pretty well,” said Cook. “And it was important that I won the last race to stop them getting the bonus point, and luckily I managed it although I did have to fight my way from the back.”
Blackbird fairly flew round Armadale and was Panthers’ top scorer with 14 points which included a six-point tactical victory over Sam Masters and Steve Worrall in the 11th heat.
But the Panthers missed a trick when they could have brought Ostergaard out for a tactical ride in heat seven when they were ten points behind – an opportunity wasted.
Monarchs: Cook 13, Fricke 9, Sedgmen 8, Worrall 7, Masters 6, Fox 4, Sneddon 4.
Peterborough: Blackbird 14, Bjerre 12, Ostergaard 11, Jacobs 5, Barrett 0, Fisher 0.