Edinburgh Monarchs left it late to polish off Newcastle Diamonds in last night’s Championship encounter at Armadale.
Monarchs triumphed 49-41 to assume leadership at the top of the league again after a tightly-fought contest.
A heavy downpour an hour before start time time which lasted for about 20 minutes turned the track quite greasy but the referee, following a track inspection by both teams, gave the green light for the match to go ahead and the surface improved as the night wore on.
This was a match Monarchs needed to win to consolidate their play-off credentials. Newcastle, on the other hand, are not in the running for a top-four spot and a miracle will be required to place them in contention. This didn’t mean they were easy opposition – far from it.
And to underline this in heat one, Diamonds No.1 Robert Lambert bustled his way past Monarchs skipper Sam Masters. And, with Ashley Morris claiming third place, relegating Monarchs’ Dutch star Theo Pijper to fourth position, this 4-2 got the Diamonds off to a solid start.
Masters said: “The track seemed pretty good to me but the weather hasn’t helped the situation. We just have to do our best.”
And Monarchs looked all set to repay the favour in the second race, Mitchell Davey winning it by a country mile but his partner Josh Pickering, who had to start off 15 metres after bursting the tapes, falling off on the fourth turn of the last lap. Monarchs could ill afford to drop points even after two heats.
And disaster befell Monarchs in heat three when the Diamonds helped themselves to a 5-1 when Ludvig Lindgren and Lewis Rose easily outgunned Ricky Wells and Max Clegg which gave Newcastle a six-point lead at 12-6. And things were looking ominous for the home side. Newcastle guest star Richie Worrall defeated Erik Riss, who has been flying of late, in the fourth race. And, while Monarchs were able to share the points, it was Newcastle’s third race winner in four heats and overall they looked far sharper from the tapes.
Riss said: “I’ve been happy with how I’ve been riding. You need a good set-up for Armadale and I’ve found one and I just couldn’t make up the ground on Richie and had to settle for second.”
Monarchs then got a huge slice of luck in the next race when Lambert, who was away like a shot from the gate, unexpectedly slowed down allowing Wells and Max Clegg to slip through for a 5-1 to reduce Monarchs’ arrears to just two points, 16-14. It transpired Lambert’s ‘kill’ switch on his bike had come out.
And Monarchs tied the scores 18-18 with a 4-2 from Masters and Pijper in heat six.
Monarchs reached the halfway stage with the scores still level after Pijper won heat eight, but really reserve star Davey should have had the beating of Newcastle rookie Alfie Bowtell but trailed in last behind him.
Monarchs continued to throw points away like confetti and a retiral by Pijper in heat ten left partner Masters to go it alone. Luckily he won the race and the scores remained tied 30-30.
Monarchs’ heat leaders were scoring quite well but, against Newcastle’s weak reserves, the Monarchs tail-end duo Davey and Pickering were too often found wanting and that was unforgivable.
Newcastle’s Lewis Rose collided with his own team-mate Ben Hopwood, who careered into the safety fence, in heat 12. Rose was disqualified from the rerun and was taken to hospital by ambulance with a suspected broken collarbone causing a delay of almost 40 minutes.
And Monarchs took advantage of Newcastle’s misfortune in the rerun to grab a 5-1 from Pickering and Wells to take the lead for the first time in the match 38-34.
And Riss and Masters repeated the trick in heat 13 to push Monarchs closer to the winning line.
And a 3-3 in the penultimate race clinched the match for Monarchs. Riss fell in the last race but was disqualified after falling off on the fourth bend. Masters won the race for Monarchs.
Monarchs: Masters 13, Riss 11, Wells 9,Clegg 4, Davey 4, Pijer 4, Pickering 4.
Newcastle: Lindgren 10, Lambert 8, Worrall 7, Morris 5, Rose 5, Hopwood 2, Bowtell 0.