CRAIG COOK today told his lacklustre Edinburgh Monarchs team-mates to “get their finger out” or risk losing the chance to win the British Premier League speedway crown for a fourth time.
The 26-year-old was seething that Monarchs tossed away the chance of victory at Leicester Lions last weekend and slammed “stupid mistakes” for their 50-40 loss, the first time Monarchs have failed to pick up anything on their travels this year.
And he insists Monarchs must avoid errors against leaders Ipswich Witches in tonight’s league summit confrontation at Armadale in order to send a message to their fellow title-chasing rivals that they have not suddenly become a spent force.
“Our main priority is to finish at the top of the league, or second, to give us a choice of opponents in the play-off groups,” said Cook. “Unfortunately we let points slip through our fingers at Leicester, we should have picked up three points or more down there, but we ended up with nothing. That was because we made stupid mistakes and those points disappeared, it was a really disappointing night and things did not go as expected. I was quite frustrated.
“The guys need to pull their finger out and start concentrating because we are now at the business end of the season. It is going to be tough against Ipswich but I think we can come away with all three points.”
The two home losses Monarchs incurred against Redcar and Newcastle could ultimately prove to be costly, but Cook said: “You cannot dwell on the past, it’s about the future now. We can’t do anything about those defeats, we need to focus on what is in front of us and make the most of our next few meetings and make sure we are on fire.”
Monarchs’ final three fixtures are all away from home against sides who have also booked their play-off spots, starting with Workington Comets on Monday.
Cook said: “I don’t think Workington are that strong a side, but we have to start riding hard and attacking tracks, and everybody in the team needs to do that. At Workington it’s all about making starts because it’s not a racers’ circuit.
“We have had such a good away record so far this year, we need to find that magic formula again and start winning matches, because we do have a team capable of winning the league.
“We need to stop making those stupid mistakes and start believing in ourselves. I believe in this team massively and I can’t stress how important this is. It is important to me, I have never won the league with a Premier League side.
“I really want this for myself and the team, and also the fans and the management as well. We really need to kick on. I don’t just want to win this meeting tonight, I want us to crush Ipswich to make a statement after being so poor at Leicester.”
Cook picked up 14 points and smashed the track record three times during the Leicester match, something of a record in itself, but his personal joy was tempered because Monarchs failed to tame the Lions.
“If you are beating the track record three times, it means just one thing – I wasn’t going that fast in heat one in the first place!” said Cook. “But it really doesn’t matter what I score if the rest of the team are not pulling their weight. It counts for nothing.
“The team still comes first, but they didn’t do what they were supposed to do at Leicester.
“I’m expected to get double figures week in and week out, but I know the boys will make up for it this evening.”
Ipswich are without their No. 1, Ben Barker, who is out for the season after injuring his back riding for his Elite League club Birmingham Brummies last week.
As a result, they have drafted in Scunthorpe’s Ashley Birks as a guest, while also recruiting Rye House ace Kasper Lykke to replace the crocked Ritchie Hawkins at reserve.
Team manager Pete Simmons, who saw his side fly to the top of the table after they demolished Plymouth at the weekend, said: “It feels good to be at the top, but we cannot afford to relax just yet. We want to maintain that position until the end.”
Captain Leigh Lanham added: “It’s a huge blow to be without Ben, but I feel the team spirit is so strong in the camp that we can go on and win something this year, and as captain of my hometown team it would be a great achievement in my career to capture a trophy for our loyal fans.