Edinburgh MONARCHS will feel they were done over by Berwick Bandits on Saturday after letting slip a six-point lead to eventually lose their Premier League speedway clash 46-44 in a tense and dour tussle which was dominated from the gate with passing at an absolute premium.
Monarchs still picked up a deserved match point to sit third in the table behind leaders Workington Comets and second place Redcar Bears but Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess wore a look of frustration in the pits afterwards, admitting: “I was disappointed that we did not get more out of the meeting.”
Monarchs were undone in the middle part of the second half when they yielded ten points in three consecutive races to their hosts who leapfrogged into a six point advantage themselves and, despite Monarchs grabbing a brace of 4-2s in heats 12 and 14, Berwick held on for victory by their fingertips.
An absolute priority for Monarchs right now is to find a replacement for the struggling Mitchell Davey at No. 7. The Aussie failed to score which helped swing things in Berwick’s favour.
Just two or three points from him would have made all the difference to the Capital outfit.
Harkess conceded that Monarchs’ mini slump in heats 9, 10 and 11 was certainly not in the pre-meeting script. “We lost two 5-1s in those races and that was very poor,” he said, “We did not expect to lose them. You always go to away tracks hoping to get something and while we did not leave empty-handed, I just felt the outcome could have been better for us.”
It did not help that Theo Pijper probably had his poorest away match of the season, picking up just four points and failing to win a single race. In stark contrast Jozsef Tabaka, whose form has plunged through the floorboards recently, produced something of a renaissance to finish second top scorer behind Craig Cook with 11 points from his five starts which encompassed two wins.
Said Tabaka: “I was using a different bike, one I keep for big tracks like Berwick and I was so much more happier with the way I rode. I have not been riding well at home because I have been trying to change things on my other bike. It is not always good to change too much, but hopefully I will be much better at Armadale from now on.” It was pleasing to see Tabaka with a smile on his face again and Harkess was as happy as anybody for the likeable Hungarian saying: “His bike made such a big difference to him, I don’t think he has been lacking confidence recently, it’s the machine he uses for home meetings which has been the main problem for him.”
Berwick, who used rider replacement for their seriously injured No. 1 Ricky Ashworth, might well think their victory was merited especially after retirals for both Matthew Wethers and Nicki Barrett in heats 3 and 14 respectively cost the Bandits dearly and cost them the opportunity to pick up all three points instead of the two they had to settle for. Cook scored 12 points but even he could not produce a miracle in the heat 15 finale which might have earned Monarchs a draw.
Cook was off the dreaded gate four position and on a track which was pretty slick he had to settle for a single point behind Berwick’s energetic Frenchman David Bellego and teammate Tabaka who finished in second place.
“I did not make a good enough start and if you didn’t hit the first bend in front, it was almost impossible to win from the back,” said Cook. “We perhaps ought to have won the match but a point is better than nothing.”
Monarchs skipper Derek Sneddon, who has dropped down to reserve alongside Davey under the new averages, scored an excellent nine points and his victory over Robin Aspegren in heat 12 was critical in keeping Monarchs in the hunt.
Berwick: Bellego 15, Smith 11, Aspegren 10, Wethers 5, Starke 3, Barrett 2.
Monarchs: Cook 12, Tabaka 11, Sneddon 9, Vissing 6, Pijper 4, Fricke 2, Davey 0.