Edinburgh Monarchs No.1 Craig Cook in fitness race

Theo Pijper leads Henning Bager (in blue), Josh Grajzonek and Jozsef Tabaka. Picture: Ron MacNeill
Theo Pijper leads Henning Bager (in blue), Josh Grajzonek and Jozsef Tabaka. Picture: Ron MacNeill
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Edinburgh Monarchs are sweating on the fitness of No.1 Craig Cook for tonight’s vital Premier League trip to Workington Comets after the 26-year-old ace missed yesterday’s Scottish Cup first leg tie against Glasgow Tigers at Ashfield with a virus complaint.

And boy did Monarchs miss their talismanic star as they slumped to an embarrassing 58-35 defeat, the first time the jubilant Tigers have beaten their oldest rivals this season. It’s a victory which will send Glasgow hearts soaring given the horrendous losing streak they have been on this year, and they might even believe they will retain the trophy when the second leg takes place sometime in October.

In truth, Monarchs, who used three stand-in replacements, have more important things on their mind right now as they strive to overhaul Somerset and Ipswich at the top of the table, and will have to scramble to find a suitable guest at short notice should Cook miss the clash against his former Comets team-mates.

Monarchs boss John Campbell said: “I spoke to Craig yesterday morning and he said he felt awful but added he thought he was getting better. He certainly will not want to go to Workington and not score a maximum. He will be keen to ride and do well, and I suspect he will give it a go.”

Even allowing for the fact the Scottish Cup is not high on Monarchs’ list of priorities, the way their patched up team were rolled over by a side who have been demoralised by one loss after another, is unacceptable, and certain squad members need to shape up, and fast, if the Capital side are to make an impact when the play-off groups are unveiled next week.

Only Dutch star Theo Pijper managed to take the fight to the Tigers as he rattled up 15 points from his five starts, which included a six-point tactical ride win, on a track which was not to everyone’s liking. Campbell admitted: “It was disappointing to lose. Glasgow had strengthened up and we were weakened because Max (Fricke) was also out injured. If Craig had ridden he probably would have scored a maximum, but we have to live with this defeat and move on.”

Asked if he thought the victory mattered more to Glasgow than it did to Monarchs, Campbell replied: “Glasgow of course had forgotten what a win was – it was their Cup Final, League Championship, rolled into one, and without question to beat their local rivals made it even better for them.”

However, Campbell was not entirely overwhelmed by the efforts of some of his riders and said; “Theo showed what was possible and if the rest of the team had got stuck in as he did, it perhaps would have been a far closer scoreline.

“Claus (Vissing) took ages to get going and rebuilt his bike during the meeting, and Derek (Sneddon) did not get going at all. As for Jozsef (Tabaka), he contributed nothing. And our guest Nicki Barrett was disappointing – we shouldn’t have rushed in to choosing him, it was a big mistake. Everything turned out badly for us on the day.

“When this match was in the calendar back in February, you think nothing of it. But when it arrives among a load of far more important matches, then I would have been quite happy if it had been rained off. And whilst the riders are there to perform and put on show to earn money, there are more important things to us right now. Also when you take away your inspirational No.1 it’s a huge turnaround for the whole team.”

A quartet of Tigers posted double figures, and four successive 5-1 advantages in the space of five races killed the match.

Campbell added that if Monarchs are to take something from Workington, then certain things need to happen. “Claus must start performing from the off instead of building his bike during a match, and Jozsef has got to get out of the gate which he hasn’t done in I don’t know how long.”

Glasgow’s Henning Bager replaces Fricke, and Liam Carr steps in for Josh Bates in the reserve positions, Fricke is expected to return from injury for tomorrow night’s rearranged clash against Ipswich Witches at Armadale.

• Glasgow: Ringwod 11, Grajczonek 11, Bellego 10, Grieves 10, North 7, Bager 6, Jacobs 3.

Monarchs: Pijper 15, Wethers 8, Vissing 7, Tabaka 2, Barrett 2, Sneddon 1, Fenwick 0.