If anyone doubted Edinburgh Monarchs’ Championship credentials, their astonishing 47-46 victory against Ipswich Witches at Foxhall Heath on Thursday must have made everyone sit up and take notice.
It has probably sealed their play-off spot and Monarchs now head to Newcastle Diamonds tomorrow in a league encounter buoyed by their performance in Suffolk which co-promoter John Campbell admitted “was not the result I was anticipating at all”.
Monarchs’ comeback from being 12 points down at one stage smashed Ipswich’s unbeaten league record at home, and on a track that is one of the most difficult to gain a result on. Only Glasgow had left previously with a point.
Campbell said: “It wasn’t a result I was anticipating at all, but we were gaining momentum towards the end and that’s where it counts. The Ipswich crowd were clearly thinking their team would carry on with their winning ways, the result would have been a great disappointment to them.”
While it was a superb team effort spurred on by a stellar performance from skipper Sam Masters and Erik Riss, Campbell revealed the true start of the comeback was how Sam Masters, who had blown an engine, rode Dutchman Theo Pijper’s ailing bike.
Campbell explained: “I gave Sam a tactical ride in heat 11 to help us pull back some of our deficit. I didn’t see a situation develop because I was busy in the pits encouraging the boys for the next race which was very important.
“Suddenly Jye Etheridge, who was Sam’s mechanic, came rushing into the pits shouting ‘we need a bike, we need a bike’. Theo had been so bad in the match up until that point that his bike would not have been anyone’s first choice.
“But Sam immediately jumped on it and won his tactical ride race easily. For Sam to win his tactical outing on Theo’s bike was fantastic.”
The 7-2 advantage Monarchs gained from their tactical move had a galvanising effect on the whole team.
Campbell added: “The Ipswich team thought that Sam didn’t have a chance aboard Theo’s bike and their heads went down a bit as a consequence.”
What effectively clinched the match for Monarchs was the 5-1 they unexpectedly gained from Max Clegg and Josh Pickering in the penultimate race.
While Ipswich star Justin Sedgmen fell off after passing Clegg, Campbell revealed: “I always thought we had a chance of getting a 5-1 because while gate four had been dominant in the early part of the match, it was now useless and if Sedgmen missed the start we had a chance. He didn’t, but neither did we expect he would fall off after passing Max.”
Monarchs travel to Newcastle, who were soundly beaten 60-33 by Sheffield on Thursday, knowing they have a fighting chance of another away win having escaped with a draw on their first visit despite leading by four points with one race remaining. But Monarchs won’t be lulled into any false securities because the Diamonds are a hard team to crack at their Brough Park circuit.
Said Campbell: “Newcastle have two big stars in their team and we have Sam and Erik in ours. If our top two beat Newcastle’s top two then we should win. I’m trying to get into Max’s head that he needs to ride to his ability and not what he thinks his ability is.
“And Josh Pickering was awful last time but I don’t think the track this time will be as bad as it was then – he had his best away match at Ipswich.
“The result at Ipswich was very pleasing but Newcastle have proven they are a very good home team. Lewis Rose is injured and they’ve got Stuart Robson as cover. Lewis has been very good at Newcastle and Stuart is capable; we’ll wait and see what happens.”
Newcastle promoter George English, who was unhappy with certain things during his side’s recent defeat at Armadale, said: “It will be another intense clash with Edinburgh I’m sure. The first fixture ended in a 45-45 draw and I anticipate another close contest this time.”
n Last night’s match between an Edinburgh Monarchs select team and Buxton Hitmen in an intermediate challenge was rained off.