Unlucky Edinburgh Monarchs bowed out of the speedway KO Cup after failing to pull back a 20-point deficit against Ipswich Witches in last night’s semi-final second leg clash at Armadale.
It was a close-run thing as Monarchs won their home leg 52-37, but were elbowed out of the competition by just five points on aggregate.
And, without doubt, the misfortune suffered by Hungarian reserve Jozsef Tabaka in three heartbreaking races swung the outcome decisively in Ipswich’s favour.
After Craig Cook and Derek Sneddon got Monarchs off to a flying start with a 5-1 in the opening race, Tabaka looked set to build on this when he led heat two only to shed a chain – which handed a 5-1 straight back to the Witches.
Tabaka’s nightmare was far from over when he and team-mate Andrew Tully sped away in a 5-1 position in heat seven. Once again Tabaka lost a chain and Monarchs had to settle for a 3-3 instead.
Four heats later and the Monarchs star must have felt like pulling his hair out when mechanical failure this time robbed him and Tully of a second 5-1.
When you are chasing down a 20-point deficit you simply cannot afford to chuck points away like this. It wasn’t of course Tabaka’s fault, but he was crestfallen in the pits afterwards and said: “I don’t know what happened, normally my bike is so reliable, I don’t understand it, but I just must move on.”
Monarchs really had to hunt the Witches down in the first half, but seemed to take one step forward and two back and were never able to put a great deal of daylight between themselves and their Suffolk rivals.
And while Cook and Theo Pijper were in splendid form, neither of them beaten by the opposition, old hands Tully and Skipper Matthew Wethers were found wanting again.
Wethers looked down on speed, and although he won heat 14 he was woefully asleep at the back in his second ride and never looked like he was going to unsettle any of the Ipswich riders’
Tully did win one race, but he really needed to hit double figures, as did Wethers, to put Monarchs in with a chance of making the final.
Derek Sneddon played his part combining with Cook for a brace of 5-1 advantages, but the Falkirk rider yielded a costly 5-1 in the eighth race, Witches pair, Morten Risager and Matt Tresarrieu, flashing past the chequered flag with relative ease.
Monarchs were only 25-23 in front at this stage, their scoring rate nowhere near good enough to trouble the Witches, who played a decent containing game.
And even when both Ipswich riders’, Taylor Poole and Tresarrieu were unusually disqualified for coming down on the first bend in heat 12, Monarchs’ resultant 5-0 advantage was still too little to save the tie.
Monarchs guest for Marcel Helfer, James Sarjeant, tried his best but his one-point score was simply inadequate on a night when Tabaka was so plagued by gremlins.
Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess said: “We simply gave away too many points. Getting through on aggregate was there for the taking but we allowed Ipswich to get back into the match too many times.
“Three times Jozsef was leading races and three times he had machine problems, and that caused a big turnaround in how the match played out. If you are trying to wipe out a 20-point deficit everybody needs to be firing. You also need a bit of luck and we did not get that either.”
Ipswich gaffer Pete Simmons said: “We felt if 20 points wasn’t enough then we did not deserve to get through to the final. We are through but it was touch and go at the end.
“There were a couple of refereeing decisions I wasn’t pleased about, but our boys stuck to their task and held together to pull us through.
“Obviously Edinburgh did not have the best of fortune with their reserve Tabaka, and you feel for the lad, but we are delighted to make the final.”
Monarchs skipper Wethers said: “It is disappointing that we have lost at this stage of the competition, but everybody tried and you certainly cannot plan for the type of luck Jozsef enjoyed, it was such a shame for him.”
Monarchs still have an eye on the play-offs and if they win at Workington Comets tonight and beat them at Armadale next Friday, then a fourth league crown remains within their grasp.
Monarchs: Pijper 15, Cook 14, Tully 8, Wethers 6, Sneddon 5, Tabaka 3, Sarjeant 1.
Ipswich: Tresarrieu 9, Risager 7, Tungate 7, Lanham 5, Poole 5, Nielsen 4.