It was the annual Children’s evening at Armadale tonight and it turned out to be anything but child’s play for Edinburgh Monarchs against Berwick Bandits in their Championship Shield qualifying speedway clash.
Monarchs, who were without skipper Erik Riss, eventually triumphed 51-39 but it wasn’t all plain sailing.
Monarchs shared the opening race which was won by acting captain Ricky Wells, but his partner Joel Andersson was stranded at the back and could make no impression on experienced Bandits pair Aaron Summers and Kevin Doolan, and it was a tough first heat for the under fire Swede who has swapped riding order places with team-mate Max Ruml.
Bandits star and former Monarch Jye Etheridge crashed into the safety fence on the back straight in heat two and was disqualified from the rerun which Monarchs reserves Matt Williamson, and Josh Pickering won easily and this 5-1 gave the home side an early lead, 8-4.
Monarchs increased that lead to six points with a 4-2 from Mark Riss and Max Ruml in the next heat. Monarchs looked to be on for a 5-1 but Bandits ace David Howe split the home pairing.
Monarchs guest rider Thomas Jorgensen, who was standing in for Erik Riss, was judged to have brought down Bandits’ Dane Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen going into the first bend of the fourth heat and was disqualified by referee Phil Griffin.
And in the rerun Busk Jakobsen held off a fierce challenge from Pickering but, with partner Danny Gappmaier picking up a third-place point, this 4-2 helped Bandits reduce their arrears to four points, 14-10.
But sensationally Berwick levelled the scores 15-15 in heat five with a dominant 5-1 from Aaron Summers and Kevin Doolan against Monarchs pair Riss and Ruml who frankly weren’t at the races.
However, Monarchs nosed back in front in heat six with a 4-2 from race winner Wells and Andersson to lead again 19-17 – an important point for Andersson which will have boosted his confidence.
In heat seven Williamson was denied a second-place finish behind partner Jorgensen when Howe bravely battled and caught the young Monarch on the line. Nonetheless, this 4-2 put Monarchs in front once more 23-19.
Bandits Aussie star Doolan won heat eight for a share of the spoils and the Bandits still trailed by four at the halfway stage, Andersson grabbed his second point of the meeting by claiming third spot.
Wells won his third race of the night in heat ten and, with Andersson once again picking up a priceless point, Monarchs stretched their lead to six points, 33-27 which was important in keeping the Bandits at bay to deny them a match point.
But Summers and Doolan grabbed their second 5-1 of the meeting for Berwick in a vital 11th race over Monarchs duo Williamson and Jorgensen. And this cut Monarchs’ lead to just 34-32 and it was all to play for again.
However, Monarchs stormed back in the very next race with a 5-1 of their own courtesy of Pickering and Mark Riss to open up a six point gap once more.
And back-to-back 5-1s this time from Wells and Jorgensen in heat 12 gave Monarchs some much needed breathing space as they now led 44-34.
And despite Doolan winning heat 14, Monarchs grabbed a 3-3 to maintain their ten-point lead with once race to go. Wells, who completed a brilliant five-ride 15 point maximum, won the last heat in fine style and with Mark Riss finishing third this 4-2 gave Monarchs quite a comfortable winning margin in the end.
Wells said of his maximum: “I needed that because I have been struggling a bit of late. I made some good starts and the track was great to ride this week, it was also a result we badly needed as a team.”
Pickering, who scored 11 points from reserve commented: “I enjoyed myself out there. I gated quite well and I was pretty pleased by how I rode. The track was absolutely beautiful and I hope the fans left for home happy because it was a good meeting.”
Monarchs: Wells 15, Pickering 11, M Riss 10, Jorgensen 6, Williamson 5, Andersson 3, Ruml 1.
Berwick: Doolan 13, Summers 9, Busk-Jakobsen 7, Howe 6, Gappmaier 4, Lindman 0, Etheridge 0.