On the night that STV launched it’s three part Titanic drama, Edinburgh Monarchs sank without trace against Glasgow Tigers in the first leg of this year’s Spring Trophy speedway encounter at Ashfield.
Despite holding a 31-29 lead after ten races, Monarchs collapsed over the last five heats, eventually going down 52-38. And today Monarchs director Mike Hunter made it clear that unless there is a marked improvement from the club’s top three stars, especially skipper Matthew Wethers, then the axe could easily be swung.
Wethers, who looked out of touch in Friday’s Scottish Open Championship, only scored four points and was unable to get near any of the Glasgow heat leaders, who brushed the Aussie aside at will.
Wethers’ team-mate Andrew Tully, who won the Scottish title in style three days ago, flopped miserably and collected just a single point, a display described as “shocking” by Hunter, who added: “Matthew was very disappointing, Andrew in a way was worse, but it was a one-off for him, for Matthew it is becoming the norm.
“Matthew’s four points were a bad four points. We are supposed to be a solid team and we can’t have this kind of thing happening. All our top three had to do was match what the second strings and reserves did. I’m very disappointed.”
Hunter continued: “It is very irritating when the lower end of the team do their job and the top end don’t. Matthew said he made changes to his bike to allow him to gate better, but it has not worked. The dawdling has to stop here.”
Asked if Wethers was under threat if his scores don’t improve, Hunter replied: “Nobody is guaranteed a team place, I can assure you.” To underline Hunter’s dismay at the head of the team, lower order duo Derek Sneddon and Theo Pijper defeated Tigers top two Joe Screen and James Grieves in heats one and three respectively, and you have to say both those wins were unexpected.
Sneddon and Pijper, plus excellent reserve Charles Wright, were Monarchs’ joint top scorers with eight points each, and even Wright’s tail-end partner Micky Dyer weighed in with a respectable three point tally.
The Tigers extracted four 5-1 advantages from the last five races, a spell some Monarchs riders’ will have nightmares about. Promoter John Campbell said: “The first ten heats for us were fine before we totally collapsed. To have pretty much controlled the meeting up until that point and to finally lose it by 14 points was very disappointing, I had expected the final margin to be about four or six points.”
Campbell wasn’t doing cartwheels over Wethers display either, saying: “Matthew only beat Glasgow’s low scorers and that was disappointing without a doubt. I’d like him to score more than he did.
“But Matthew will be more aware of his performance than anybody else and I’m sure he’ll work hard this week to make sure there is no repeat in the second leg at home on Friday.”
Pijper was pleased with his efforts, especially claiming the scalp of Grieves early on. “To score eight points wasn’t too bad because I’m not fully fit yet, but beating Grieves gave me a boost for the rest of the meeting.
“Matthew did not perform as he can do and had the team scored a couple of more points each we might have won. We’ll just have to show them how it’s done when we get them at Armadale this week.”
Friday’s deciding leg is probably now harder than was first envisaged, but Campbell thinks Monarchs will turn things around. “Glasgow’s scoring will probably rest entirely on the shoulders of their top three men and none of them are unbeatable round Armadale, although the edge might just have tipped in their favour.”
Glasgow Tigers: Grieves 14, Screen 13, Grajczonek 11, Ksiezak 7, Mudgway 3, Campston 3, O’Malley 1.
Monarchs: Sneddon 8, Wright 8, Pijper 8, Cook 6, Wethers 4, Dyer 3, Tully 1.