Edinburgh Monarchs preserved their unbeaten home Premier League speedway record at Armadale last night.
It was a hard earned and nervy 50-43 victory over a guest-laden Somerset Rebels side who tasted defeat for only the third time this season.
Monarchs claimed all three match points and will now face Ipswich Witches in the upcoming play-off quarter-final ties with the winners facing Somerset in the semi-finals.
Skipper Sam Masters said: “Anything can happen in the play-offs and some riders can easily crack. Ipswich are going well at the moment but I think we have got enough good riders in our side to take care of them and we will try our best, that’s all you can ask.”
Despite speculation that Monarchs reserve Dan Bewley might return from injury the young Englishman still hasn’t been given the green light and was replaced by Ben Hopwood who did well and picked up three points.
Monarchs co-promoter John Campbell said: “Dan has an appointment with the doctor on Monday and was told to wait until then before making any decision about coming back to ride.”
Berwick’s Thomas Jorgensen stepped in for Monarchs’ German star Erik Riss who was riding in the World Under-21 Championship in the Czech Republic and scored six points.
Monarchs were given a “fright” before the start of the match when the sun came out! It was a weather pattern totally alien to the Capital side who have faced numerous washouts at hoem this season but they were not phased by it.
Indeed, they stormed to an opening race 5-1 when Masters and Ryan Fisher convincingly defeated Rebels duo Ricky Wells and Victor Palovaara.
And Monarchs repeated the trick in the next race courtesy of reserve pair Max Clegg and Hopwood to lead 10-2 giving, the Rebels plenty to think about at that early stage.
Clegg has had a bountiful period recently in terms of points scored culminating in his success in the British Under-19 championship at Birmingham in midweek.
Monarchs, perhaps starved of action of late, were on fire and after a brace of 4-2s in heats three and four they stretched their advantage to 18-6, which prompted Somerset to hand Wells a double-points tactical outing in the fifth heat which he won in great style after Jorgensen fell. And with Wells’ partner Victor Palovaara finishing second this bumper 8-1 advantage enabled the Rebels to slash Monarchs’ lead to just five points.
But Monarchs responded straight away when Masters and Fisher chalked up their second 5-1 of the evening in heat six, Monarchs leading 24-15.
However, in the next heat Clegg was excluded after a collision with Rebels star Jake Allen on the second bend and the referee awarded the race 5-1 in Somerset’s favour and, as a consequence, Monarchs were just five points to the good once more. Somerset continued to turn the screw and a 4-2 from Ludvig Lindgren and Palovaara in heat nine inched them to within three points of Monarchs.
Monarchs’ most experienced duo Fisher and Masters grabbed their third 5-1 together in heat ten and that put some much-needed daylight between the hosts and their visitors who were looking more than lively.
Monarchs now led by seven points and that was maintained when Kevin Wolbert picked up his second win of the match in heat 11. And Monarchs continued this overdue stability with a 5-1 from Jorgensen and Clegg in the 12th race. But the Rebels were not finished yet and rattled Monarchs with a 5-1 in heat 13 to close down their arrears to seven points after Masters could only finish third behind rivals Wells and Lindgren.
Somerset grabbed another 5-1 in heat 14 to set up a nailbiting last-heat decider which Monarchs should have been capable of avoiding. But Monarchs ended as they had started with a 5-1 from ‘old heads’ Masters and Fisher, their fourth of the meeting, which finally quelled the Rebels’ challenge.
Monarchs: Masters 13, Fisher 10, Clegg 8, Jorgensen 7, Wolbert 7, Hopwood 3, M. Riss 2.
Somerset: Wells 11, Lindgren 10, Starke 7, Palovaara 6, Wilson-Dean 6, Allen 3, Stoneman 0.