Edinburgh Monarchs produced a spirited second-half fightback against Berwick Bandits in last night’s televised Premier League speedway clash at Shielfield Park which only sparked into life over the last five races.
Despite Monarchs’ late smash-and-grab effort, they left pointless after the Bandits edged home 48-41, snatching a match-winning 5-1 in heat 15 which was delayed by 45 minutes following a crash involving Bandits’ Matthew Wethers and Monarchs’ American reserve Aaron Fox in the previous heat.
Today, frustrated Monarchs co-boss John Campbell admitted: “It is very disappointing to come so close to getting a point, or even winning the meeting. To come from 18 points down after heat ten, to just three behind with one race to go, was a magnificent achievement and made up for some dreadful gating over the first part of the match. That’s all it was down to. We needed to make the gate, and we did not do it often enough.” He added: “All of a sudden, things got better for us in the second half, but in the crucial last race we once again couldn’t get out of the gate and our chance was gone.”
The Bandits made a storming start, a carbon copy of the way they steamrollered Monarchs in their KO Cup quarter-final first-leg tie just a month ago, and were ten points up, 29-19 after just eight races.
This prompted Monarchs to send out Sam Masters and Steve Worrall for tactical outings in heats nine and ten respectively. But the duo spurned their opportunities as the Bandits extracted maximum points in both races which left Monarchs staring at a clobbering.
Monarchs have shown they are at their most dangerous with their backs to the wall, and when they won the next three heats in convincing fashion, they had incredibly reduced Berwick’s lead to eight points.
High drama unfolded in heat 14. At the first time of asking, Berwick’s Swede Alex Edberg tumbled off and was disqualified from the rerun, which contained a further twist. Fox led the race, but in his pursuit of him, Wethers clipped the Californian’s back wheel, bringing both men down. Wethers careered over the safety fence and required treatment for a damaged hip. Fox suffered a knock to his head and was taken to Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary to be checked over.
Campbell said: “Aaron has not broken anything, but I don’t think he will ride at Somerset Rebels this evening.”
With Wethers also disqualified from the race, the referee awarded a 5-0 in Monarchs’ favour leaving them tantalisingly 43-40 in arrears and scenting a last-gasp triumph.
But their slender hopes were dashed in the last heat when Craig Cook and Justin Sedgemen were soundly beaten by Berwick pair David Bellego and reserve Matej Kus.
Kus once more was Berwick’s talismanic tail-ender scooping 16 points and was never put under any pressure by Fox and his partner Derek Sneddon, who had another nightmare, meeting, collecting just one point.
Campbell, conceding that Kus, who scooped 16 points and was beaten just once by Max Fricke in heat 12, was key to the Bandits’ success, said: “He made good starts and was untroubled after that. To have a high-scoring reserve is a huge advantage, especially at home.”
While Monarchs’ lesser lights failed to shine, heat leader Sam Masters was also dismayed by his display which earned a measly five points. His best effort was a second place behind Cook in heat 13 when he was aboard Sedgmen’s bike.
“I did nothing all night until I came out on Justin’s bike. I just couldn’t get my own machinery going at all, it was so difficult and almost impossible to pass,” he said.
Berwick are now in third place in the table and with Somerset breathing down Monarchs’ necks at the top, a win at their Oaktree Arena venue this evening would give the Capital speedsters a massive boost.
Berwick: Kus 16, Belego 12, Doolan 6, Vissing 5, Wethers 5, Edberg 3, Jensen 1.
Monarchs: Cook 10, Worrall 8, Sedgemen 8, Masters 5, Fricke 5, Fox 4, Sneddon 1.