Title-seeking Edinburgh Monarchs took a giant leap towards the Premier League speedway play-offs with twin victories over Redcar Bears and Plymouth Devils in last night’s vital double-header event at Armadale Stadium.
Monarchs crushed Redcar 62-28 in the first match and then triumphed 39-30 against Plymouth to scoop all six points on offer to lift them into third place in the table with three home fixtures to complete before the qualification cut-off date on September 16.
It was a patched up Monarchs squad which took to the track. They were missing skipper Sam Masters who is en route to Sweden for tonight’s Grand Prix Challenge Final and was replaced by Newcastle’s Ludvig Lindgren. And Belle Vue Colts rider Rob Shuttleworth guested for reserve ace Dan Bewley, who is still sidelined with concussion following a crash at Newcastle last weekend.
In addition, American star Ryan Fisher was riding with a broken-foot injury and was not 100 per cent fit. This definitely placed some pressure on the home side with 30 heats of action taking their toll on man and machinery. And Monarchs did not get off to the best of starts against Redcar who have tasted success at Armadale in the past and included two ex-Monarchs, Tobias Busch and Jye Etheridge, in their line-up.
In the first heat Fisher gated well but his engine gave up on the second bend; luckily Lindgren won by a mile for a 3-3 which was repeated in the next race when Shuttleworth fell and was excluded with team-mate Max Clegg taking the chequered flag after passing Etheridge on the third lap. It was confirmed the unfortunate Shuttleworth broke his shoulder when he came to grief.
Monarchs then asserted themselves with three 5-1 advantages to lead 24-12 after six heats and that increased to 14 points with a 4-2 from Kevin Wolbert and Clegg in the seventh race.
Redcar were frankly toiling to keep up with Monarchs at this stage who then rattled in another 5-1 verdict courtesy of Fisher and Clegg in heat eight to stretch their advantage to a massive 18 points with the Bears chasing air and stopping the rot by sharing the ninth heat.
It was a no-contest situation now with another Monarchs 5-1 in heat 10 prompting Bears ace David Bellego to take a double-points tactical outing in the next race with the Teessiders trailing 41-19. But it came to nothing with Wolbert and Clegg notching up Monarchs’ sixth 5-1 of the meeting to lead 46-20 to put themselves well out of reach from Redcar who had simply fallen apart at the seams and were a shadow of the side who earned an away draw at Peterborough last week.
Redcar lost two further 5-1s and were 56-22 down with two races left as Monarchs cruised to victory in a manner few would have predicted. Redcar produced no fight and their faces must have felt as red as their race bibs. It’s academic to single out any Monarch for their efforts, with the sad exception of Shuttleworth, they all wallowed in this points feast with stand-in captain Wolbert claiming a 15 point maximum.
There was a scare in the penultimate race when Monarchs duo Mark Riss and Clegg came down on the first bend and the referee awarded the heat 5-1 to Redcar. And this forced Monarchs to use Lee Payne ad Kevin Whelan as their two reserves in the second match against Plymouth who also fielded two guests at the tail-end.
Plymouth were just as ineffective as Redcar and were 27-15 down after seven races. Monarchs won 39-30 after heat 11 when the match was abandoned due to the time curfew but the result stands, and on a night involving injuries, Monarchs will be relieved to have fulfilled their aim of winning both meetings comfortably.