Edinburgh Monarchs extend top-spot advantage

Monarchs rider Claus Vissing pulls away from Somerset Rebels' Josh Grajczonek. Picture: Ron MacNeill
Monarchs rider Claus Vissing pulls away from Somerset Rebels' Josh Grajczonek. Picture: Ron MacNeill
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EDINBURGH MONARCHS pulled four points clear at the top of the Premier League after a pulsating 49-41 victory over second-place Somerset Rebels in front of a full house at Armadale last night.

In one of the best matches of the season, Monarchs forgot all about things like dodgy gate positions and short runs into the first bend, and simply concentrated on what they do best, which is serving up some great speedway and winning the type of key races which can often prove the difference between victory and defeat.

By far the star performer for the Capital outfit was Mildenhall youngster Josh Bates, who replaced Mitchell Davey at reserve and was nothing short of a revelation. Bates scored a magnificent seven points from his four starts but that doesn’t even begin to tell the full story.

After a shaky first couple of rides, Bates suddenly blossomed like a veteran and pulled off a quite sensational win over Rebels captain Jason Doyle in heat 11 which almost took the roof off the Lothian Arena.

It was then assumed that Bates would be taken out of his final outing in heat 14 and that skipper Derek Sneddon would take the ride instead. But Monarchs manager Alex Harkess, in a brave and bold move, stuck with Bates and the teenager defied all logic again by beating Alex Davies and Simon Lambert.

With team-mate Jozsef Tabaka finishing second, this crucial 5-1 advantage sealed the match for Monarchs, who were under severe pressure after No. 1 Craig Cook and Claus Vissing had surrendered a 5-1 in the previous heat.

Bates seemed oblivious to the fuss everyone was making of him afterwards and said of his triumph against Doyle: “It was all right, I suppose. He was just another rider in the same race as me, and, therefore, was beatable. I just went out and told myself to do my best. I made a good gate and managed to hold my line all the way to the chequered flag.”

Responding to his second win in the penultimate heat, Bates added: “I didn’t feel any pressure at all. I just got on my bike and gave it everything I had and won the race, so happy days.

“I felt sharp right from the start of the match and went out on the track with a positive attitude, and I was delighted at how things worked out for me.” It will come as no surprise that Monarchs are now trying to sign the young ace until the end of the season.

“We are talking about it right now,” said Harkess. “Hopefully we will be able to use Josh in the coming weeks, especially after this performance.”

Asked about his move to keep Bates in heat 14, Harkess said: “It wasn’t that hard a decision because Derek had struggled a bit in his previous ride and Josh simply went out and did the business for a second time, he was fantastic.” The Rebels certainly fancied their chances of overturning Monarchs, especially after they grabbed a 4-2 in the opening race when Craig Cook and Max Fricke got in a right fankle with each other for the second time in 24 hours, allowing Doyle to sneak in for a handy win.

Cook, it must be said, was a bit sluggish from the gate on occasions but, typically, he saved his best race until last when he engineered an audacious outside swoop down the home straight to overtake Doyle and ensure Monarchs claimed all three match points.

Sneddon, who scored eight points including a brace of wins, said: “This was a result we wanted so badly and everybody fought to get it.

“It was a fantastic effort by the whole team, and what about Josh – tremendous stuff from him.”

Apart from Doyle and Nick Morris, who both posted double-figure returns, the Rebels had too many of their squad off form and this win, which was a dress rehearsal for their upcoming KO Cup semi-final matches, will have done Monarchs’ confidence no end of good.

Monarchs: Cook 10, Pijper 8, Sneddon 8, Bates 7, Tabaka 7, Vissing 5, Fricke 4.

Somerset: Doyle 13, Morris 11, Grajczonek 9, Newman 4, Nielsen 2, Lambert 1, Davies 1.