Highly-fancied Leicester Lions were tamed in dramatic style by Edinburgh Monarchs in last night’s Premier League Knockout Cup first round first leg tie at Armadale Stadium.
Monarchs displayed little mercy as they crushed the Midlanders 58-31, which barring a disaster in tonight’s second leg at Leicester, should guarantee the Capital speedway side their place in the quarter-finals.
Monarchs team captain Derek Sneddon said: “This was a fantastic effort by everybody, we wanted a big lead to take to Leicester and we have got it.”
Monarchs started the match in tremendous style grabbing 5-1 advantages from the first two races, and this basically set the pattern for the whole match with the Lions always chasing their tails. And by the halfway mark Monarchs led 32-16, and with no tactical rides allowed in the Cup competition, Leicester heard the alarm bells ringing in their camp well before the meeting ended.
It was something of a personal triumph for Monarchs in-form reserve Jozsef Tabaka who sparkled like diamonds and rattled up 13 points from his five starts. The Hungarian was on fire, especially in heat 12 when he passed Lions promising ace Lasse Bjerre on the last bend of the last lap to clinch second place on the line behind teammate Theo Pijper who won the race in fine style.
But Tabaka was probably even more astonishing in the previous heat when he thrashed Lions skipper and No. 1 Kauko Nieminen by a literal country mile. However, Tabaka’s evening was to end bitter sweetly for him in the penultimate heat. Lions Aussie rider Kevin Doolan, conscious of the threat Tabaka posed, shoved his opponent into the safety fence on the first corner for no other reason than to stop the Monarchs star getting round him.
But referee Willie Dishington incredibly excluded Tabaka from the re-run, which no one in the stadium could fathom. Tabaka’s bike was also a write off. “It was not good for me,” said Tabaka. “I did nothing wrong on that first turn. Apart from that, I had a good night and was very pleased with how I rode. I’m a bit sore but I’m all right.”
Once again it was Monarchs dynamic duo of Craig Cook and Theo Pijper who inflicted a lot of harm on their Leciester rivals, both men clinching double figure returns for the second home match in a row.
And Pijper is confident Monarchs will not blow their huge advantage. “Twenty seven points is a very big lead, we just have to make sure that we make some decent starts tonight and we’ll be fine. Leicester may look a good team, but we showed them just how fast we are.
“It was a great showing by the whole team and I think Leicester will have been surprised at how heavily they lost.”
However, Leicester have in no way given up the ghost and a spokesman said after the meeting: “It just wasn’t our night, some of our team performed well and some did not. We need to have a talk to our team about what went wrong.
“We will come out fighting this evening and pulling back a 27-point deficit is not impossible, especially around our own track.”
The Lions top performer was Doolan who won two races on his way to a nine point total. But generally the Lions fell apart at the seams and coming just 24 hours after they took their leave of this season’s League Cup tournament, they are starting to unravel a bit.
Monarchs newcomers Max Fricke and Claus Vissing were in the points, Fricke picked up two, and Vissing collected eight, which included a brace of race wins.
The Dane was a tad unfortunate to be disqualified in heat 11 after he locked up on the second turn, otherwise he too could easily have sailed into double figures.
Monarchs: Cook 14, Tabaka 13, Pijper 12, Vissing 8, Sneddon 6, Helfer 3, Fricke 2.
Leicester: Doolan 9, Bjerre 7, Nieminen 5, Karlsson 5, Blackbird 3, Graversen 1, Nielsen 1