Craig Cook’s long-awaited comeback for Edinburgh Monarchs lasted for just one race at Scunthorpe Scorpions last night, as the Capital speedway side crashed to a heavy 59-34 defeat in their opening play-off fixture at the Eddie Wright Raceway.
After winning his first race in tremendous style, clocking the fastest time of the meeting, Cook came to grief in his second outing when he tumbled into the safety fence while attempting to pass Jason Bunyan on the last bend.
Cook simply ran out of room and although Bunyan refused to yield to let the Monarch past on the outside, there was no question of unfair riding on the Scorpion’s rider’s part. It is believed Cook has sustained suspected broken ribs, which could have a major impact on Monarchs’ bid for a league and cup double this season.
Cook was devastated that his first match back in the saddle following a five-week lay off after breaking his wrist in August, should end in disaster. He said: “All this hard work to get myself back to fitness, and this is what it comes to. I’m desperately disappointed and can only hope that it isn’t as bad as what I think, but it feels as if I have broken my ribs.”
On the flip side, reserve Jozsef Tabaka, who also returned to action after a similar period of inactivity after breaking his hand, picked up where he left off and topped the Monarchs scorechart with a sparkling 12-point haul.
The Hungarian won two races, his first from the back, picked up a paid win and was a very competitive performer. “It was great to be back,” he said. “I was happy by how I rode and winning some races also helped me settle back in.”
Monarchs did quite well in the early part of the match, but things began to unravel when Andrew Tully, who led heat four, inexplicably slid off in the home straight just yards from the chequered flag. This gifted the Scorpions a 5-1 and they snatched four more such advantages in a row to comfortably lead 35-13, leaving Monarchs with the task of mounting a damage limitation exercise.
This they did to a degree with a lucky 5-1 in the ninth race when Bunyan stopped, and a tactical 8-1 success from Theo Pijper and Tabaka three heats later almost certainly stopped the Scorpions from crashing through the 60-point mark, and that could ultimately be crucial if the play-off groups are decided on points difference.
Monarchs director Mike Hunter said his side did not perform well enough. He said: “Scunthorpe are very strong at home, even though they are still without David Howe. But when you get guys like Josh Auty and Nick Morris coming out as rider replacements for him, it is very difficult indeed.
“The Scunthorpe circuit is also a real specialist track nowadays. There is a powerhouse outside line and if you don’t get on that you have no chance of winning races. If you miss the start, the Scunthorpe boys get on the fast line straight away.
“But when any of the home riders did get behind, they struggled to make much headway either, but they were not behind us often enough.”
The biggest worry is the collapse in form of skipper Matthew Wethers, who picked up just two points and has only scored five from his last three away meetings, which is nowhere near good enough if Monarchs want to progress.
“Matthew is very disappointing at the moment,” added Hunter. “He has lost it away from home but is still all right at Armadale, but some of our ‘old stagers’ who have been around for a long time are not picking up enough points. Scunthorpe are not going to be easy opponents in Friday’s return match at Armadale.”
Dutchman Pijper was the only other Monarch to hit double figures, his ten-point haul bolstered by his six-point double score triumph in heat 12.
Auty and Morris did commendable work for the Scorpions, piling up 15 and 14 points respectively, and they were strongly supported by Ashley Birks and Danish ace Michael Palm Toft, who amassed 20 points between them.
In the other group match last night, Newcasstle Diamonds narrowly defeated Somerset Rebels 48-44 at Brough Park.
Scunthorpe: Auty 15, Morris 14, Palm Toft 11, Birks 9, Irving 6, Bunyan 4.
Monarchs: Tabaka 12, Pijper 10, Tully 4, Cook 3, Sneddon 2, Wethers 2, Sarjeant 1.