Edinburgh Monarchs moved one step closer to the speedway play-off Grand Final after a truly memorable 48-45 victory at Berwick Bandits.
Monarchs were ten points down after heat eight, but fought back magnificently in the second half of Saturday’s encounter to leave the Bandits totally shell-shocked.
The man who deserves the highest praise for leading the Capital outfit to glory is skipper Derek Sneddon, who bravely shrugged off a bout of food poisoning which kept him out of Friday’s first encounter to turn in one of his best ever performances round Shielfield Park.
The Falkirk-based ace, who was trapping with great gusto, rattled up ten points at reserve and on a night when Justin Sedgmen unusually failed to score due to engine problems, Sneddon’s effort was commendable, to say the least.
After promoter John Campbell had no joy in finding a Pnremier League guest for Sneddon, the rider agreed to give it a go and told the Evening News: “I was feeling better than I did on Friday, but still not good enough to ride a bike.
“But I told John if he really needed me I would ride. And I’m glad I did.
“My last couple of displays at Berwick have been pretty poor, so I was really up for a big performance and it paid off.”
Not for the first time at Berwick, Monarchs lost the opening heat 5-1 when Claus Vissing and David Bellego easily outpaced Monarchs’ No.1 Craig Cook and Sedgmen. At that point, the omens for victory did not look encouraging as the Bandits kept the pressure tap turned on.
However, the tide started to turn in Monarchs’ favour in the ninth race when Sam Masters won his tactical outing against Bellego and Kevin Doolan. This 6-3 advantage was Monarchs’ first heat success of the match and proved the catalyst for the turnaround in fortunes which then ensued.
Cook began to find his gating touch and Sneddon followed his team-mate home for a vital 5-1 in heat 11, which was made easier when Bandits ace Matej Kus retired while at the back. This cut the Bandits’ lead to just three points at 36-33 and Monarchs could now smell victory.
Cook and top-scorer Sam Masters then grabbed a 5-1 in heat 13 after Vissing ploughed into the safety fence on the third bend, edging them in front for the first time 41-40, before Stevie Worrall and Sneddon picked up a telling 4-2 in the penultimate race.
And Monarchs were happy to settle for 3-3 in the last heat, Kus leading home Cook and Masters, who shut out Doolan at the back to seal three golden match points, which looked highly unlikely at one stage.
Campbell, who wore a huge smile in the pits afterwards, said: “It was a tale of two halves, I suppose. We became more dominant in the latter part of the meeting, but I think it was a case of the track settling down and lots of adjustments to our bikes to get them going really quickly.
“Even after we lost that first race, I was always hopeful we would turn the match around.
“It was amazing how we overcame the fact that Justin had an absolute shocker of a match, yet we still won, but this is what we have been doing all season.”
Asked if he thought Monarchs were now in pole position to make the Grand Final, Campbell replied: “I think we are a long way yet from the final, but we’ve now won our two most difficult fixtures. We go into Friday’s home clash against Workington Comets with great confidence.”
Berwick: Doolan 12, Vissing 9, Kus 8, Bellego 6, Edberg 5, Simota 5.
Monarchs: Masters 14, Cook 11, Sneddon 10, Fricke 7, Worrall 5, Fox 1, Sedgmen 0.