Edinburgh Monarchs were mugged 50-40 by Berwick Bandits in their Premier League speedway clash at Shielfield Park on Saturday, with team manager Alex Harkess admitting: “We did not have enough riders going well enough to win.”
The loss keeps Monarchs in ninth place in the table after their home win over Ipswich Witches, but outwith the top six, the gateway to the end-of-season play-offs. And while the Capital side are still playing catch up in terms of matches ridden, their schedule is not that far behind those of their rivals.
Monarchs had already won at Berwick in the League Cup earlier in the season, but never looked like repeating that success. Harkess said: “Track conditions were difficult early on and didn’t really get any better, to the extent that gate one was non-existent.”
The meeting turned on the battle at the basement and Berwick’s choice of guest to replace Dutchman Romano Hummel proved to be inspired. Berwick chose wisely, recruiting Peterborough’s Simon Lambert, who amassed ten points. His partner, Liam Carr, picked up five and together they outscored their Monarchs counterparts Max Clegg and Dan Bewley by a whopping 12-point margin.
Bewley, however, tried his heart out for his three-point return. But Clegg, who failed to score, had an absolute stinker, and his seeming struggle to improve his performances around bigger tracks, which he promised to try and do, is a concern.
And while some may forget that Clegg, who is Monarchs’ senior reserve, is still young, he is being bettered by Bewley and it should be the other way around.
Harkess went on: “It was down to Lambert really, he proved to be much better than our reserves. And the bottom line was we were simply not competitive enough in too many positions. It’s hard to win matches when you run ten last places.”
Yet Monarchs got off to a flier, with skipper Sam Masters and Erik Riss storming to a 5-1 in the opening heat, which was cancelled out when the Bandits secured maximum points in the very next race.
The scores remained tied 18-18 after heat six, but after that Monarchs lost ground and the Bandits produced a 5-1 in heat 14, a weak race for Monarchs, to clinch the match.
Monarchs’ top performer was Masters, who is in the form of his life right now and not just for Monarchs. The Aussie piled up 14 points from his five rides and was beaten just once by Bandits star Thomas Jorgensen in heat 13, which was re-run after Masters was warned for moving at the start by referee Jim McGregor at the first time of asking – a decision which irked Masters.
Meanwhile, Monarchs league match at bottom of the table Scunthorpe Scorpions last night was washed out. Harkess added: “That was a pity as we had targeted Scunthorpe as a possible match we could win.”
Berwick: Doolan 12, Jorgensen 11, Lambert 10, Pijper 7, Wethers 5, Carr 5.
Monarchs: Masters 14, Wolbert 9, Fisher 8, E. Riss 6, Bewley 3, M. Riss 0, Clegg 0.