Derek Sneddon was an absentee at Newcastle Diamonds last night having gone down with food poisoning, and his Edinburgh Monarchs teammates looked a bit off colour too as they slipped to a 53-39 Premier league speedway defeat at Brough Park last night.
But the Capital side were not exactly crying into their brown ale having clinched their championship play-off qualification spot 24 hours earlier thanks to a massive favour by Berwick Bandits. The Shielfield Park team defeated Ipswich Witches by a comfortable margin on Saturday which left Monarchs’ only serious challengers for the sixth and final position stranded on 35 points. But Monarchs had already bettered that total by winning their double header against Glasgow Tigers and Rye House Rockets at Armadale on Friday, and today co-promoter John Campbell said: “I’m absolutely delighted that we have reached the play-offs, and I always believed we would make it through.”
Not that Monarchs deemed their trip to Newcastle as meaningless, especially as they might have to go back there when the play-off mini groups are revealed this weekend.
However, with three of their regular squad sidelined, Monarchs always faced a daunting challenge against the Tynesiders who have pretty much reigned supreme round their own circuit so far this season.
Kevin Wolbert once again stepped in for Craig Cook and Glasgow’s Mason Campton was the stand-in for Hungarian Jozsef Tabaka.
Wolbert did not shine to the same degree he did in the double header test, and suffered an engine failure in his second ride having sped to glory in his first. Certainly Monarchs had no intention of rolling over like puppies and actually led their hosts in the very early stages of the contest.
Newcastle though are a doughty bunch of triers and took a real grip on proceedings and pulled out a commanding 37-23 advantage after ten races.
And while Monarchs snared a brace of heat wins late on, this was a fixture Newcastle had no intention of losing and their win propelled them to the top of the table.
Monarchs’ top scorer was Dutchman Theo Pijper who picked up three victories from his 12-point haul. Pijper flew in following a world longtrack engagement in Germany, and Monarchs director Mike Hunter lauded his superb effort, saying: “He was terrific and very lively and was always in the mix.”
Andrew Tully also showed his liking for the Newcastle track, racking up nine points which included a sensational win over Diamonds ace Ludvig Lindgren in the fastest time of the night in heat 13. This was the only point Lindgren dropped in his five starts.
Newcastle’s other big success was reserve Claes Nedermark who equalled Lindgren’s 14-point tally and overshadowed to a degree his Monarchs tail-end counterparts Marcel Helfer and Campton, the latter posting a respectable six-point score.
Helfer may frustrate when he tootles round at the back at Armadale, but the young German has a knack of securing some rewards on the road and his three-point score was evidence enough of his usefulness away from home.
Hunter concluded that Monarchs were very unlucky to be so depleted. “Newcastle is not the easiest place to go for in search of points because they have been thrashing everybody recently, but we gave them a closer run than they usually get, and if we do return to Newcastle in one of the late season competitions, hopefully it will be with a full team.”
Newcastle: Nedermark 14, Lindgren 14, Henry 11, Lemon 7, Robson 7, Starke 0.
Monarchs: Pijper 12, Tully 9, Wolbert 7,Campton 6, Helfer 3, Wethers 2.