Edinburgh Monarchs chalked up their first success over Glasgow Tigers this season with a hard fought 46-43 triumph at Armadale last night to put them within touching distance of the play-offs.
It would require Redcar Bears to win all three of their remaining away fixtures this weekend and Monday to deny Monarchs a place in the top four.
Glasgow, who picked up a match point, were ravaged by injuries, tracking just three of their own riders. Admittedly it was their heat leaders, but they responded brilliantly, helped by their guest stars to make Monarchs fight every inch of the way for their win.
The importance of the match for both teams resulted in some tasty action early doors and after the first race was shared 3-3, the second heat was won convincingly by a sharp looking Max Clegg. And with partner Mitchell Davey tucking in for third place, this 4-2 gave Monarchs a 7-5 lead which was an encouraging start.
After the Tigers levelled with a 4-2 of their own in heat three, Monarchs surged into the lead with a 5-0 in the fourth race courtesy of Erik Riss and Davey. There were only two finishers in this race with Tigers skipper Aaron Summers and Ryan McDonald tumbling off.
Mark Riss won heat five but team-mate Ricky Wells trailed in last losing the battle with Tigers’ Ashley Morris for third spot. This shared result was a big disappointment for Monarchs with Wells never looking likely to overtake Morris.
And with the next race also shared Monarchs still led by five points, 20-15 but their top men couldn’t quite keep pace with their Tigers counterparts who were sharper out the gate. Too many last places were costing Monarchs dearly and things took a turn for the worse for Monarchs at the halfway stage with James Sarjeant and Morris inflicting a 5-1 over Josh Pickering and Davey as, at a stroke, Tigers cut the lead to a single point, 24-23, after eight races.
The Tigers were baring their claws despite being a weakened outfit and Monarchs at this point were toiling to respond.
But Wells atoned for his last-place finish in heat five by beating Summers and Sarjeant in heat nine for a 4-2. Mark Riss picked up a crucial third-place point and Monarchs now led 28-25, but it was proving hard going for the home side.
The Tigers raced into the lead with a 5-1 from Richard Lawson and Sarjeant in the tenth race over Monarchs skipper Sam Masters, who looked off the pace, and Pickering. Tigers had now turned things around and led 30-29 and Tigers guest rider Sarjeant was the man doing a lot of the damage. He was already in double figures from the reserve spot after only ten races. The momentum was all with the visitors now.
Another shared result in heat 11 maintained Tigers’ slender lead.
However, Monarchs duo Wells and Clegg stormed to a 5-1 over Sarjeant and Richard Lawson in heat 12 to retake the lead, 37-34 giving Edinburgh a chance of overall victory.
And a humdinger of a race in heat 13 saw Masters clinch his first race win of the meeting, Erik Riss succumbed to Worrall in a titanic scrap for second place but nevertheless this 4-2 put Monarchs in front 41-36 with just two races left. And Clegg won heat 14 in great style to clinch the match for Monarchs.
Worrall triumphed in the last race to earn the Tigers a match point and no one would begrudge them that.
Wells said: “I was pretty angry with myself for coming in last in heat five, I’m not being cocky but I don’t normally do that. But we put in a strong finish to get the points.”
Clegg, who won two crucial races, said: “I had a good evening for once and my win in the second last race was crucial. Even with a weakened team Glasgow ran us close all the way, but we got there in the end.”
Monarchs: Wells 10, E Riss 9, Clegg 9, Masters 8, M Riss 4, Davey 3, Pickering 3
Glasgow: Worrall 13, Sarjeant 12, Lawson 9, Summers 5, Morris 4, McDonald 0