After being almost pilloried for their woeful effort in losing to Scunthorpe Scorpions in the mud at Armadale, Edinburgh Monarchs ripped the form book apart with a showstopping display at Berwick Bandits on Saturday which provided far more thrills than the Funfair and Ferris wheel which had pitched up just yards from the Shielfield Park pits area.
Monarchs ambushed the Bandits 50-40 grabbing all four Premier League points but, more importantly, the Capital speedway side now lead Ipswich Witches by one point in the battle for the sixth and final play-off position with three matches in hand over their Suffolk rivals. The two teams meet home and away this week.
Scunthorpe ripped the heart out of Monarchs and few would have dared to believe the transformation which unfolded in front of their fans against a Berwick team who, despite a catalogue of injuries this season, remain a potent force for visiting teams round their own circuit.
Monarchs were superb in the way they harried the Berwick riders round the first two turns, and also pulled off the remarkable feat of having none of their top five come in last over the course of the match, and that is something to be cherished on an away track.
For the fourth road trip in succession Monarchs opened up with a 5-1 courtesy of guest James Grieves and Derek Sneddon, but surrendered it immediately in the next race when reserve pairing Filip Sitera and Marcel Helfer were left trailing by Bandits duo Micky Dyer and Klaus Jakobsen. This levelled the scores, which remained tied 21-21 after seven races.
Monarchs then made their next breakthrough in heat 8 when Sneddon and Helfer helped themselves to a 4-2 advantage, the trick repeated by Andrew Tully and Sitera in the following race which enabled Monarchs to open up a narrow 29-25 advantage.
In past visits to Berwick, Monarchs have sometimes folded at this stage of the meeting but the reverse was true on this occasion. Still four points to the good, Monarchs’ Dutch master Theo Pijper won a critical heat 12 clash against Matej Kus and Dyer, which was followed by another 4-2 from Grieves and Tully in heat 13 widening Monarchs’ lead to six points with just two heats left.
No one in the Monarchs camp dared celebrate yet, but they didn’t have to wait long as skipper Matthew Wethers and Helfer produced a shock 5-1 in the penultimate race to
seal Monarchs’ remarkable triumph. Helfer received some stinging criticism for his performance against Scunthorpe, but credit where it’s due his second place behind Wethers was decisive as it was surprising and will have done the German’s confidence no harm whatsoever.
Berwick’s top performer Seb Alden, who amassed 15 points from six outings, won the last race but it was no more than a consolation.
Monarchs chief Alex Harkess could barely contain his glee afterwards. “I never know what to expect from our team and just take it as it comes but I honestly did not think we’d take all four points. We are capable of winning at Berwick, but haven’t always done so. To be fair Berwick have had a lot of injuries this season, but if you can get out of the gate, you know you can do well.”
Harkess denied that the Scunthorpe setback had buried Monarchs’ play-off dreams. “It wasn’t the end of the world and beating Berwick has cemented our hopes and made it a little easier for us now, though it’s still ours to lose at Armadale.”
Pijper grafted hard for his seven points and revealed he was riding with a shoulder niggle after coming to grief against Scunthorpe. He said: “This was the perfect answer to our home defeat by Scunthorpe. It’s always hard to come to Berwick, however the track was good and we all showed what we can do.”
Understandably after winning at Sheffield Tigers last week, Bandits boss Ian Rae was disappointed to slip up at home again. He said: “A couple of our guys picked the wrong time to have an off night which happens occasionally, but we can’t afford to carry anybody right now.
“Monarchs have riders who ride our track just as well as their own, but I can’t fault our lads for effort – they were gutted to lose the meeting.”
Monarchs top scorer with 12 points was Grieves who won a trio of races, but it was a rock solid display down the line which created the platform for their victory.
Berwick: Alden 15, Dyer 8, Aspegren 7,Kus 4, Bellego 3, Jakobsen 3.
Monarchs: Grieves 12, Wethers 9, Sneddon 8, Tully 8, Pijper 7, Helfer 4, Sitera 2.