CRAIG COOK today praised Edinburgh Monarchs for an “awesome” display at Berwick Bandits on Saturday, despite losing a last heat decider which saw them pipped 46-44 by the home team, who came within a whisker of losing their unbeaten League Cup qualifying record at Shielfield Park.
Cook insisted if Monarchs had been at full strength, instead of being depleted by injuries to Derek Sneddon and Charles Wright, they probably would have won the meeting.
The scores were tied 42-42 with one race to go, but the Bandits duo of Ricky Ashworth and Lee Complin pulled off a match-saving 4-2 against Theo Pijper and Andrew Tully which produced an almost tangible sigh of relief among the anxious Berwick fans.
Cook, who scored eight points, which included a full win and a paid win, said Monarchs deserve enormous credit for taking the Bandits to the wire. “I don’t think anybody was disappointed that we lost that last race,” he said. “To even get that close to Berwick without Derek and Charles was an awesome team effort and we should all be proud of ourselves for giving them such a big fright.”
Monarchs have often floundered like swans caught in an oil slick at Berwick, but Cook said the track surface was acceptable and this made a big difference to Monarchs’ efforts. “The track was very rideable,” he added, “And it just showed if it’s in a reasonable state it can be raced on.
“Berwick definitely underestimated us, as have some other sides this season, because we have a lot more potential than we are being given credit for.”
The Monarchs No. 1 expressed satisfaction with his personal contribution and revealed he was set to partner Pijper in that vital heat 15 finale but problems with his bike after combining with Tully for a big 5-1 advantage two races earlier made this impossible.
Cook explained: “I was trying out a few different things which didn’t work, but you have to experiment if you want to progress in this sport. I wanted to go out in the final heat, but when I drained my oil after heat 13 it was full of aluminium which affected the bike’s magnets and I couldn’t go out.
“But Andrew did a good job and although he did not come out on top, that’s the way it goes sometimes. It was a big handicap to be without two of our own riders, but our performance has filled us with confidence about returning to Berwick for our league fixture later in the season.”
Aussie ace Micky Dyer once again exhibited glimpses of his growing stature by picking up seven points. He was forced to plough a lone furrow at the tail-end with Wright’s National League stand-in, James Sargent, failing to score.
Cook believes Dyer is now starting to make some sceptics sit up and take notice.
“I believe in Micky a great deal,” said Cook. “He is a hell of a good rider who is only going to get better. He has a bright future and is now putting together the scores he is capable of.”
The Monarchs management will be delighted by the solidity of the Capital outfit’s down-the-line scoring, especially skipper Matthew Wethers who won his first three outings on his way to a healthy ten-point haul.
Tully matched his team-mate’s double figure bounty and also managed to win a trio of races. Incredibly, Monarchs produced eight race winners against a Berwick squad perceived to have powerful heat leaders round their own den.
Monarchs earned a point, their first reward away from home in the northern qualifying section, and some will argue they deserved better. They will be buoyed up as they travel south today to open their Premier League programme at Scunthorpe Scorpions.
Berwick: Ashworth 12, Complin 11, Tomicek 8, Alden 5, King 5, Bellego 4, McKinna 1.
Monarchs: Wethers 10, Tully 10, Pijper 9, Cook 8, Dyer 7, Sargent 0.