Five-man Edinburgh Monarchs dig deep to see off Redcar Bears 48-41
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However, there is reason for cautious optimism the tide could be about to turn after a battling 48-41 victory over a dogged Redcar Bears.
There was a stark reminder of the dangers of speedway when Monarchs reserves Jacob Hook and James Sarjeant collided in the second heat. The latter, who suffered a leg break for Redcar last October, on the exact same bend, was withdrawn from the meeting due to concussion and must be starting to wonder if the Armadale track has it in for him. Youngster Gregor Millar, who races for the Armadale Devils, entered the fray at No.8.
Monarchs were already operating with just six riders as Lasse Fredriksen was racing in a European Championship qualifier in Hungary. The Bears themselves were also deprived of the services of their No.1 Charles Wright through injury, as well as reserve Jordan Jenkins. But it was the visitors who were the more assured for the first half of the meeting, ex-Monarch Erik Riss, in particular, looking dominant with four consecutive heat wins.
Getting out of the gate has been the Capital side's Achilles heel since the first wheel was turned last month and those issues are still to be resolved.
You could have thrown a blanket over the sides with just three heats remaining, the hosts with the slenderest of leads 36-35.
But some quite magnificent team riding from skipper Sam Masters enabled Josh Pickering to join his compatriot at the front for a crucial 5-1 heat 13 win.
The Bears were still in with a chance of a losing bonus point going into the final heat, but they were unable to register a 5-1 they required.
It was a courageous performance from what turned out to be an unexpected Edinburgh quintet after the setback of losing Sarjeant so early on.
Nevertheless, attentions now turn to the return fixture at the ECCO Arena on Sunday where the Monarchs go in search of their first away league win in the Championship this season.
Monarchs: Masters 13, Thomson 11, Castagna 10, Pickering 9, Hook 4, Sarjeant 1, Millar 0.
Bears: Riss 13, Kerr 10, Morley 6, Allen 5, Edwards 4, Andersen 2, Roynon 1.