Hang out the bunting. Edinburgh Monarchs, who have been on the speedway throne for over sixty years, gained their first Premier League points of the season at Armadale last night as they easily tamed Sheffield Tigers 56-37 which will lift them off the foot of the table.
And while it is unlikely that a flotilla of tug-boats will sail along the Water of Leith as a mark of respect, Monarchs victory signifies that their bid to make the championship play-offs has finally begun in earnest.
It wasn’t exactly a stately procession to the winning line because Sheffield, who have been perennial losers at Armadale over the years, did pull off a couple of heat successes but their scoring was too sporadic, especially among their top five, to have Monarchs trembling at the knees.
Monarchs opened up with a big 5-1 from Craig Cook and Derek Sneddon and although Sheffield wiped that out with a 5-1 of their own in the very next race, it was a mere blip as the home side powered their way to a 30-18 lead after just eight races.
This enabled Sheffield to bring out Ricky Wells for a tactical outing in heat nine and the Tiger responded with a fine win over Monarchs Dutch star Theo Pijper. With Joe Haines finishing third, Sheffield gained a useful 7-2 advantage which cut their deficit to just seven points.
But instead of acting as a springboard the Sheffield team failed to push on as might have been expected, leaving Monarchs to win pretty much as easily as the score suggests.
Monarchs top performer was Andrew Tully who stormed to a fifteen point maximum and continues to feel so much at home round the Lothian Arena.
He said, after receiving the Monarch of the Match award: “I messed up my chance of getting a maximum last week because I was too kamikaze so it was great that I got it this time around, I feel very comfortable round Armadale and I’m also pleased with my bike set-up as well.”
Team-mate Craig Cook who has been on fire all season, was also unbeaten by a Sheffield rider as he cruised to a 13 point paid maximum. “It was an awesome evening”, said Cook, “and it was great that we got our first league points under our belts, everybody rode well and it was a good result for the whole team.”
One man who perhaps was not entirely happy with his lot was Monarchs reserve ace Micky Dyer, who scored two points from his four rides. Dyer was unhappy with Tigers rival Chris Schramm, who battered into him coming down the back straight in heat 12.
Dyer said: “I wasn’t happy with how my night went, Chris clattered into me and hit my back sprocket and has caused quite a bit of damage, I’m pretty sick about it.”
Schramm probably should have been excluded for dangerous riding but the fact Dyer stayed upright definitely influenced the referee’s decision not to penalise the Sheffield rider.
Derek Sneddon, in his second match back from injury, rode solidly for his seven point haul and skipper Matthew Wethers also chipped in with nine points which included two wins.
“I was quite happy with how things went”, said Wethers. “It was another good team performance and to finally get our first league win in the bag was great.”
Although Sheffield’s experienced reserves Joe Haines and Emiliano Sanchez outscored their Monarchs counterparts, their efforts were not enough to swing the scales in Sheffield’s favour.
Haines reflected afterwards: “Edinburgh is always a hard track for us to come to because Monarchs are very strong on their own patch. Certainly our top five struggled a little bit and although we got that 7-2 result in the ninth race, it wasn’t enough and I would have liked to have scored more than just the one point I managed in that race.”
Sheffield No. 1 Josef Franc, a former Scottish Open champion, won just a single race and the Czech star would certainly have hoped for better.
Monarchs other reserve Charles Wright weighed in with three points and the Englishman said: “I did okay I suppose I would have liked to have scored more, but things did not work out for me in some races.”
Monarchs: Tully 15, Cook 13, Wethers 9, Sneddon 7, Pijper 7, Wright 3, Dyer 2.
Sheffield: Wells 10, Haines 8, Franc 6, Schramm 6, Sanchez 6, Skidmore 1, Hall 0