Speedway: Battle-weary Monarchs limp over finishing line

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A PATCHED-UP Edinburgh Monarchs team, and probably a battle weary one as well, completed their southern tour and Premier League programme for this season at Workington Comets yesterday.

Monarchs had little expectation of victory which is not as defeatist at it might appear. Ever since Derwent Park became a haven for fast gating stars, Monarchs, who traditionally have never possessed riders with quick starting techniques, have been basically neutered as a consequence.

And predictably the Comets ran out comfortable 55-39 winners, a defeat which consigns Monarchs to eleventh place in the fourteen strong table, the Capital side’s third championship triumph 12 short months ago no more than a misty memory.

Monarchs went in to the match without former Comet Craig Cook who injured his foot at Plymouth Devils on Friday and had to have nine stitches inserted in his toe after ploughing into the safety fence.

Despite being just two points in arrears after four races, the Comets zoomed away and won just as easily as the score suggests. Monarchs No. 1 Kevin Wolbert and Andrew Tully both picked up 12 points, and Wolbert managed to win both heats thirteen and fifteen which stopped the Comets’ top four getting any maximums between them.

Skipper Matthew Wethers, who only returned to action against the Devils after getting injured against Glasgow Tigers in the Scottish Cup, struggled and Monarchs director Mike Hunter said: “I think Matthew has run out of steam as the season has gone on, and not just over the last three meetings. But Workington are a very hard team to beat on their own track, their top rider Richard Lawson is really flying right now which was reflected by his 17 point score, and Workington were always in control.

“We were a bit unlucky when Matthew got injured in the Scottish Cup and to lose Craig as well certainly did not help us. I think had Craig been able to ride we might have secured a couple of match points over the three meeting tour which might have allowed us to climb the table by two or three places.”

Monarchs’ away form has been their undoing this season. Once habitual winners on the road, Monarchs have won just twice away from Armadale. They have had a glut of chances on occasions to add to their miserable tally but too often have allowed things to slip through their grasp and this has been symptomatic of their 2011 campaign as a whole. Certainly those Monarchs fans who only turn out to watch their heroes win the league, and stay away if they don’t, will feel this season has been a bit of a let down.

But Monarchs cannot win the league every season and those supporters who have stratospheric expectations need to get their feet firmly back on the ground.

On Saturday, Monarchs went down 51-42 against KO Cup winners Newport Wasps, which was raced in dreadful conditions because of the rain. But at least Monarchs put up a far more acceptable show than they managed at Plymouth 24 hours earlier.

Hunter said: “We provided nine race winners at Newport and as team we performed miles better than we did against Plymouth, and our travelling supporters were a lot happier with our performance against the Wasps. Kevin was the star of the show with sixteen points and Andrew and Adam Roynon also rode very well indeed.”

But Hunter was withering after Monarchs’ 50-43 loss at Plymouth and raged: “Whereas our 2010 team had the knack of doing exactly what was required to win, our 2011 team is exactly the opposite.

“Plymouth were there for the taking and even allowing for the fact that we lost Craig through injury, it was our own blunders which cost us a point at least.”