Edinburgh Monarchs had the proverbial mountain to climb in trying to claw back a substantial deficit of 24 points against arch rivals Glasgow Tigers in tonight’s Premier League KO Cup quarter-final second leg speedway tie at Armadale Stadium.
In truth Monarchs, who were unusually supine, never really left base camp. Okay, they triumphed 48-41 to earn the consolation of winning their own leg but the damage had been done in the first meeting and Tigers now progress to the semi-finals to face Somerset Rebels, the side who ended their unbeaten record at Ashfield last Sunday, comfortably on aggregate (95-78).
It was absolutely essential that Monarchs got off to a storming start to give them any sort of chance of causing an upset and it looked good in the first race when Sam Masters and Mark Riss hit the front in a 5-1 position, but Riss performed a balletic spin on the first bend leaving Monarchs to settle for a 3-3 instead, which of course suited Tigers down to the ground.
Then in the next race Monarchs reserve Max Clegg and his Tigers counterpart Nike Lunna were both excluded for coming down on the third turn, and while Dan Bewley defeated Danny Ayres in the rerun Monarchs only gained a meagre one-point advantage from his victory which boosted Glasgow’s hopes of killing Monarchs’ comeback bid in the first half.
Glasgow, despite surrendering a 4-2 in the fourth heat, were not unduly concerned and were probably under instructions to simply pack the second and third places to secure their passage into the last four.
And with five of the first seven heats all shared 3-3 this strategy was paying dividends. Monarchs, with Ryan Fisher still not fully fit following a foot injury last week, played into Tigers’ hands who snuffed out some of Monarchs’ top four.
Monarchs only led 25-22 at the halfway stage and the writing was already on the wall. The Tigers had provided a trio of race winners during the opening period and perhaps sensed they could win the second leg as well, a sting Monarchs were desperate to avoid.
Glasgow were not being extended at all and having suffered badly at the hands of Monarchs in past seasons at the Lothian Arena they could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon Utopia in the heart of West Lothian!
Shared heats were being rolled out like packages on a conveyor belt with Monarchs still only three points to the good, 31-28, after ten heats.
The Capital oufit were bereft of the heat advantages they badly required to derail their moneyed rivals who stuck to their task without any reckless deviation, little wonder their supporters who travelled through in large numbers were waving their red and white flags with some vigour.
Monarchs were now hanging on by their fingertips to win the match after yet another shared race in heat 13 saw them maintain their slender three-point lead.
And they clinched the meeting in the penultimate heat with a cherished 4-2 from race winner Clegg and partner Fisher; incredibly it was only Monarchs’ second heat advantage of the night which explained a lot. And although they grabbed a third 4-2 in the last heat which Masters won, it was not nearly good enough to stop the Tigers riders celebrating their semi-final passage.
Skipper Masters said: “It was good that we won the match because Glasgow are a good team with good gaters.”
Team-mate Fisher commented: “I did not have a good night at all, I was still feeling sore after my crash last week. I’ve had better meetings!”
Monarchs: Masters 13, Wolbert 8, E Riss 7, Bewley 7, Clegg 6, Fisher 5, M Riss 1
Glasgow: Worrall 13, Lawson 9, Bach 8, Lunna 5, Summers 4, Ayres 2, Garcia 0