A raging Craig Cook today claimed Edinburgh Monarchs have been robbed of their chance of reaching the Premier League speedway play-off final after going down in controversial circumstances at Workington Comets on Saturday night.
The Englishman believes the Comets “cheated” their way to a slender 46-44 triumph, a loss which means Monarchs cannot now overtake group leaders Scunthorpe Scorpions.
The whole match turned on a highly contentious heat 13 race when Cook was passed on the second turn by Comets star Richard Lawson. But Cook alleges Lawson crossed the inside white line to pull off the manoeuvre and should have been excluded by the referee Darren Hartley.
And had the match official disqualified Lawson, Cook says Monarchs would have shared the race 3-3 instead of suffering a 5-1 against them and this would ultimately have won them the match leaving them to defeat Workington at Armadale on Friday to have a tilt at a fourth championship title.
Cook told the Evening News: “I’m still absolutely fuming over what happened, Lawson rode across the white line with both wheels and was at least a foot over the line, but the referee was too lazy to get out of his box to have a look, he wasn’t interested.
“It was absolutely gutting and we should be heading for the play-off final and will prove this when we hammer Workington at home this week, some people might think the meeting is now academic, it’s not, because it’s all about winning.”
Cook is urging Monarchs to lodge a protest with the speedway authorities, adding: “The match was filmed for video which showed Lawson’s tyre marks and there is no doubt in my mind we should organise a protest over the referee’s decision, We were robbed and I’m so unhappy.
“I don’t believe in cheating to win, it’s like theft, it’s so heartbreaking because we turned in such a brave performance and everybody rode with their hearts. I had been critical that one or two of the team had not been riding as well as they could lately, but everybody gelled together on this occasion, and the referee has cost us big time.”
While Monarchs co-promoter John Campbell was also unhappy over the handling of the situation, he said: “The referee said there had been 48 bikes round the track before that race, and the tyre marks could have been anybody’s which was a fair argument.” Luck certainly seems to be in short supply for Monarchs right now and while Cook’s unhappiness is understandable, Monarchs may well feel that heat nine was of equal significance.
With Workington leading 26-22 they secured a precious 4-2 advantage when Jozsef Tabaka packed up while in third place, handing a gift point to Comets’ second-string rider Tero Aarnio.
Tabaka, despite this blip, picked up nine points from his seven starts which helped to erase the mechanical nightmare he endured against Ipswich at Armadale on Friday, and the Capital outfit could still have grounded the Comets, whose Derwent Park home has become something of a stronghold in recent seasons, in the final heat. Trailing 43-41 thanks to a brilliant 5-1 from skipper Matthew Wethers and Tabaka in heat 14, Monarchs required another 5-1 to snatch glory.
Cook was suitably fired up and took the chequered flag, but partner Theo Pijper suffered a sickening engine failure on the first lap, and that spelled almost the end of Monarchs play-off journey.
Cook was Monarchs’ top scorer with ten points, with Wethers and Pijper weighing in with eight and nine respectively. Rene Bach topped the scorechart with 12 for the Comets, who were operating riderreplacement for the injured Kenny Ingalls.
Monarchs wind up their season on Friday and director Mike Hunter commented: “We owe it to Scunthorpe to make sure we defeat Workington, we can’t let ourselves down, we want to end on a winning note.”
Workington: Bach 12, Roynon 10, Lawson 9, Howarth 9, Aarnio 3, Morris 3.
Monarchs: Cook 10, Pijper 9, Tabaka 9, Wethers 8, Tully 5, Sneddon 3, Sarjeant 0.