Edinburgh Monarchs hauled themselves off the floor to edge out Newcastle Diamonds 46-44 in a Championship League thriller at Armadale Stadium tonight, which went down to the last heat.
It may not have been the most convincing of wins but it was a morale-boosting triumph for the speedway team who have not performed to their true abilities over the past few weeks.
More importantly, the result lifts Monarchs off the bottom of the league table.
Monarchs team boss Alex Harkess said: “I wasn’t satisfied with the result if I’m honest, it was complicated. But a win is win and it was good to get three points on the board. But I wasn’t that happy with our performance again.” One Monarch happy with his display was Joel Andersson who scored seven which included two victories. He said: “It was almost perfect for me. I made some good starts and felt really comfortable out on the track, and it was good for the team to get the win.”
Monarchs’ league campaign this season has been very intermittent due to the weather and a couple of blank Friday nights which explains why they were propping up the league before this match.
Monarchs were under pressure to prove they had a core of steel rather than a soft centre so getting off to a positive start was of vital importance, as well as not letting visiting teams off the hook which so annoyed Harkess last week against Workington Comets.
It wasn’t the perfect start by any manner of means. Ricky Wells held off a fiery challenge from Newcastle’s Ludvig Lindgren to win the race but partner Andersson trailed in last, so Monarchs had to settle for an opening 3-3.
Max Ruml dropped down to reserve for Monarchs and he and partner Coty Garcia were no match for Diamonds reserves Matthew Wethers and Carl Wilkinson who romped to a 5-1 success in the second heat to give Newcastle an early four-point advantage.
Wethers, of course, is a former Monarchs captain and no-one knows Armadale quite like the Aussie. Wilkinson is an experienced campaigner and no slouch either.
However, Monarchs quickly responded with a 4-2 from race winner Mark Riss and Josh Pickering in the third race to reduce their arrears to just two points.
Another 4-2 in the next race from skipper Erik Riss and Ruml levelled the scores 12-12 s and already there were signs that Monarchs had no intention of letting Newcastle run away with this match.
Heat five was shared when Newcastle’s Stuart Robson took the chequered flag despite a last-minute effort by Pickering to catch him on the line, and this second 3-3 kept the scores tied at 15-15.
But Monarchs made a big breakthrough in the next race when Andersson and Wells cruised to an easy 5-1 over Wilkinson and Tero Aarnio to open up a 20-16 lead. It was great team-riding by Wells who kept the Newcastle pair at the back while protecting race winner Andersson who was leading out in front.
And with the seventh race also shared Monarchs maintained their four-point lead.
Andersson won his second race of the night for Monarchs in the eighth race to keep the Diamonds at bay – Andersson showing how much this second victory meant to him by punching the air with delight as he crossed the winning line, a super effort from the Swede and his endeavours will have done his confidence no harm whatsoever.
Pickering, who moved up into the team proper this week, won in style in heat nine and with Mark Riss mopping up third place this 4-2 stretched Monarchs’ lead to 30-24.
But Newcastle fought back in heat 11 with a 4-2 from Robson and Lindgren which reduced the lead to four points. Erik Riss, who started off 15 metres after touching the tapes was given second place for Monarchs ahead of Lindgren which incensed Newcastle who thought they had gained a 5-1.
They did get the verdict they deserved in heat 12 when Matej Kus and Wilkinson romped to a 5-1 over Pickering and Ruml which levelled the match 36-36.
But Erik Riss and Wells reversed that 5-1 in heat 13 for Monarchs and this pushed Monarchs four points in front again, 41-37 with two heats remaining.
Mark Riss was excluded for falling off in the penultimate race and in the rerun Newcastle scored their third 5-1 of the match with Wethers and Ashley Morris easily taking care of Ruml. It was all square again, 42-42. with a race to go.
And there was further drama in the last heat when Newcastle’s Robson was excluded when he tumbled off on the third bend which left Erik Riss to grab the glory for Monarchs by defeating Kus. Wells finished in third place and Monarchs clinched a nail-biting two-point win; relief all round.
Monarchs: E Riss 14, Wells 10, Andersson 7, Pickering 7, M Riss 5, Ruml 3, Garcia 0.
Newcastle: Wethers 11, Kus 10, Robson 8, Morris 6, Wilkinson 5, Lindgren 4, Aarnio 0.