Edinburgh Monarchs propelled themselves back to the top of the Championship table with a hard fought win over Redcar Bears tonight.
The visitors arrived with high hopes following their big 54-35 victory over highly fancied Ipswich Witches at home on Thursday and once again it seems the Witches flattered to deceive.
This was Monarchs’ fourth win on the bounce as they displaced Glasgow Tigers from the summit.
All eyes were on Monarchs’ second string star Max Clegg who was axed by his Premiership club Wolverhampon Wolves on Thursday and replaced by his Monarchs team-mate Mark Riss.
Clegg’s body language in the pits last week against Berwick Bandits suggested he would rather be anywhere than Armadale, but the club are determined to get him going again.
But now he is just riding in the Championship, travelling all the way up from his Yorkshire home each week to score two or three points, as he has been doing since the season started, must be financially prohibitive.
Clegg, who has been struggling to find his scoring touch of last season, had a golden chance to prove Wolves were wrong in releasing him, but unfortunately fell off on the first bend in his opening ride in heat three. He remounted but finished last.
Monarchs got off to a flying start with a 4-2 from Sam Masters and Josh Pickering.
And a 5-1 from Mark Riss and Mitchell Davey in the second heat put Monarchs 9-3 in front, only for the Bears to hit back with a 4-2 from Jonas B Anderson and Coty Garcia in the third heat to reduce their arrears to just four points.
Monarchs then secured their second 4-2 from Ricky Wells and Davey in heat four to restore their lead of six points.
However, a surprise 5-1 from Garcia and Richie Worrall against Erik Riss in heat five helped the Bears reduce their deficit to 16-14. Clegg was plum last and looked all over the place, he clearly has much work to do and time is not on his side.
Masters won his second race of the night in heat six and with Pickering following him home this 5-1 once again restored the home side’s six-point advantage.
Wells continues to win his races by a mile and his triumph in heat seven, his second of the match, pushed Monarchs eight points in front thanks to Mark Riss holding out Ellis Perks for third place.
At last Clegg had something to smile about when he won heat nine quite comfortably against Perks. He punched the air as he crossed the line and the resultant 4-2 for Monarchs widened the gap to ten points, 32-22.
Redcar were not giving up the contest and a 5-3 win in heat ten courtesy of a tactical ride by Anderson kept the pressure on Monarchs who were having a few wobbles.
A 4-2 from Mark Riss and younger brother Erik in heat 12 saw the winning post loom in to view as Monarchs led once more by ten points, 42-32.
In another twist Redcar grabbed a 4-2 of their own when Worrall led from the tapes in heat 13 and when Masters fell on the final bend Ben Barker was the grateful recipient of a third-place point and this cut Monarchs’ lead to eight points again.
A brilliant 5-1 from Mark Riss and Clegg in the penultimate heat clinched the match points for Monarchs but they were made to fight all the way by the Bears who turned in one of their best performances at Armadale in recent times albeit with two of their regular team missing.
Clegg said he felt “pretty chuffed” with his eventual five points: “I’m a lot happier and it was a better performance from me.”
Masters said: I’m happy that we are top of the league but I’m not happy with a lot of things that went wrong for me.”
Worrall scored 13 points for the Bears and was their top scorer and managed to beat Monarchs’ American star Wells three times.
Monarchs: M Riss 13, Wells 11, Masters 10, Pickering 5, E Riss 5, Clegg 5, Davey 3.
Redcar: Worrall 13, Anderson 12, Garcia 7, Perks 4, Barker 3, Hall 1.