“We made the impossible possible” was Edinburgh Monarchs’ co-promoter John Campbell’s reaction after his Capital speedway heroes snatched a remarkable 45-44 Premier League victory against Newcastle Diamonds at Brough Park last night.
The triumph, which moves Monarchs five points clear of Ipswich Witches at the top of the table, was their 15th win of the season, their only ‘blip’ a 45-45 draw at Ipswich last Thursday, as they stretch their unbeaten streak to 16 matches.
But Campbell candidly admitted he thought Monarchs were going to taste defeat for the first time in 2014 after a controversial exclusion for No.1 Craig Cook in heat 11 seemed to leave the visitors in a hopeless position as they trailed the Diamonds by five points with just four races remaining.
But a remarkable 5-1 by Cook and Sam Masters over Danny King and Ludvig Lingren in the 13th heat cut Monarchs deficit to a single point and when reserve Steve Worrall, the man with the midas touch, and skipper Derek Sneddon pulled a 4-2 out of the fire in the next race, they led their hosts 42-41.
And in a nail-biting final race showdown – which had to be rerun after an unsatisfactory start – Cook did what he does best, coolly keeping his head to take the chequered flag in the fastest time of the season and dealing a hammer blow to the Diamonds.
Campbell told the Evening News: “I thought we were down and out. I could not see how we could get the heat advantages we needed, let alone race winners. It was another amazing display after victory looked an impossible task.”
Campbell said that heads went down after Cook’s disqualification for allegedly bringing down Oliver Greenwod on the third turn, but added: “We produced a miracle with that 5-1 in heat 13 and that gave us the chance of winning in the final heat. As ever, Craig produced the win that mattered.
“It underlined yet again that we never know when we are beaten. It’s also the case, because such is the spirit in the camp, that we are not allowed to lose – we can’t lose.
“At one time riders used to sit in the pits and never know what the progressive match score was, but they knew exactly how critical heat 13 was to our chances and that’s how it’s been so far this season. The team are aware of what’s going on and what needs to be done.”
This latest win is especially meritorious given that Sneddon and Max Fricke, as the middle pairing, lost a brace of 5-1s against them. They were definitely not at their best, yet they are both considered Brough Park specialists, especially Sneddon, who rode for the Diamonds not so many moons ago.
“They were our weakest pair,” said Campbell, “yet Derek grabbed that vital third place in the penultimate race, which allowed us to go into the last race one point in front.”
Cook was unhappy with referee Darren Hartley, who judged the Monarchs No.1 had gone in too hard on Greenwood, forcing the youngster down.
Cook insisted: “I did not bring him down. I was tight on the inside white line, but I never drifted off it. The referee thought otherwise.” However, the Cumbria-based ace was all smiles after the dust had settled and was told by Monarchs’ director Mike Hunter that he planned to write a book about all of Cook’s heat 15 heroics, to which the rider replied: “I’d get nervous reading it.”
For Masters, his role was no less important than Cook’s and the Aussie was glad that he managed to make a decent gate in that heat 13 nerve-jangler.
“I was pretty stoked with that,” he said. “I had a good first corner and just went for it. Luckily, I was able to follow ‘Cookie’ home all the way to the line.”
But Masters was convinced Newcastle were primed to deny Monarchs their victory.
“Halfway through the meeting I definitely thought we were going to lose – but all the boys stuck together and a win is a win no matter how small the margin is at the end.
“Newcastle have had some problems this year, but they’ve a strong top four and are a very tough team to beat at home.”
Worrall was Monarchs’ top scorer with 12 points from his six outings, while skipper Stuart Robson was best for the Diamonds, also with 12.
Newcastle tracked new signing Chris Mills and the tail-ender was impressive with six points, including a race win.
Monarchs were without Aaron Fox and recruited Danny Phillips as his stand-in. However, despite some good efforts, the youngster failed to score.
Newcastle: Robson 12, King 11, Kerr 7, Lindgren 6, Mills 6, Greenwod 2.
Monarchs: Worrall 12, Cook 11, Masters 9, Sedgmen 6, Fricke 5, Sneddon 2, Phillips 0.