Edinburgh Monarchs hauled themselves off the foot of the table last night with a competent Championship League speedway victory over Border rivals Berwick Bandits at Armadale.
Monarchs triumphed 52-38, but the Bandits did not surrender easily and made a fight of it.
The meeting marked the Monarchs homecoming of former skipper Sam Masters, who returned to the club last week in an attempt to boost their lingering play-off hopes.
The Australian received an enthusiastic reception from the blue-and-gold faithful, who were imbued by the belief that Masters might just bring about some much-needed stability to the Monarchs camp in an attempt to get their collective scoring juices flowing once more.
Said Masters: “It feels great to be back and I just hope I can do my best to turn the team’s fortunes around and get us through to the end-of-season play-offs.”
Masters duly won the opening heat, defeating Berwick No.1 Aaron Summers and with William Lawson following Masters home, Monarchs grabbed a 4-2 advantage.
Added Masters: “I forgot how small the track was. It’s been a while since I’ve ridden it regularly, but it was good to get that first win under my belt.
“It’s just a question of me finding my feet again.”
Berwick ace Coty Garcia won the second race for a 3-3 share of the spoils, which maintained Monarchs’ early lead.
Monarchs’ new reserve Matt Marson, who finished third, said: “The track was a bit different to how it was before and unfortunately I hit my partner Connor [Coles], but I said sorry afterwards, it was just one of these things, but the Monarchs fans have been great to me since I joined the club and I appreciate that.”
Monarchs opened up a four-point gap with another 4-2 in the third race and they now led 11-7. Monarchs’ Josh Pickering fell in the fifth heat and was disqualified from the rerun, which the Bandits won with a 4-2 to cut their deficit to just two points at 16-14.
At the halfway mark the Bandits, thanks to another 4-2 in heat eight, still trailed by a couple of points 25-23. Monarchs then got their first 5-1 of the meeting in the ninth race through Ricky Wells and Pickering and now led by six, 30-24, but the Bandits were proving stubborn opposition.
Monarchs grabbed their second 5-1 of the night in heat 13 to stretch their lead to ten points, 44-34, which basically clinched the match for them.
And Monarchs made absolutely sure with back-to-back 5-1s in the penultimate race courtesy of Wells and Coles.
Monarchs team boss Alex Harkess said: “I’m pleased with the result – the boys got better as the match went on.”
Berwick team manager Gary Flint commented: “We knew it would be tough. Edinburgh now have a strong top four and we fell away a bit in the latter stages.”
Monarchs: Masters 13, Heeps 13, Wells 11, Pickering 6, Lawson 4, Coles 4, Marson 1.
Berwick: Summers 12, Doolan 7, Jacobsen 6, Garcia 6, Etheridge 5, Gappmaier 2, Flint 0.