Edinburgh Monarchs clinched their place in the Premier League speedway play-offs after grounding a poor Rye House Rockets side at Armadale last night.
Monarchs powered their way to a convincing 58-34 triumph and collected all three match points which were at stake, but top scorer Craig Cook insisted the Capital side are aiming to finish at the top of the table to give them choice of opposition once the championship campaign begins next month.
Said Cook: “I never doubted we would guarantee our spot in the top six but we now must look to finish in top position so we can choose who we want to face in the mini-group knockout stage, that can give you a big advantage.”
Rye House have been noted for causing Monarchs trouble at home in recent years, but on this occasion they were miles off form. Without reserve Jason Garrity who is still recovering from a broken leg he sustained in a crash back in May, the Rockets had to call upon Scottish youngster Ryan MacDonald to help them out at the tail-end and this weakened the Hertfordshire outfit quite considerably. Not that it mattered too much because, in general, the Rockets lacked any real cutting edge and will have been disappointed with the level of performance they produced.
Cook was unbeaten by the opposition as he stormed to an untroubled paid 14-point maximum, and added:“I just think we were by far the stronger team and everybody rode well. And we now need to make sure we keep this momentum going into the play-offs and beyond, because I believe we have a real chance of winning a fourth league title this season.”
Compared to last week’s thriller against Somerset, this was a third-rate contest wich was pretty much decided by the end of the first half when Monarchs led 31-17. But Monarchs’ success was once again tempered by crashes involving Claus Vissing and young Josh Bates.
Vissing withdrew from the meeting after his first outing when he got tangled up with Rockets reserve star Kasper Lykke on the first bend in heat four. Vissing fell awkwardly and was taken to hospital to be checked out after saying he had a pain in his back.
Monarchs team boss Alex Harkess said: “It’s too early to say if he has damaged anything or not, and we are hoping he will be fit for our KO Cup semi-final at Somerset on Tuesday, Claus is not having the best of luck right now.”
And Bates badly injured his wrist, though it’s unlcear if it’s broken or not, after he was given nowhere to go by Rockets No.1 Oliver Allen in heat 11.
Having secured Bates’ services until the end of the season, this would be a monumental blow if the youngster now has to sit it out due to a spill that was not of his own making.
In that same race Allen also bundled skipper Derek Sneddon into the boards, but the referee believed Sneddon came down of his own accord and disqualified him from the re-run which left Allen and partner Pontus Aspgren to coast round on their own for an 8-0 advantage, but even this slice of outrageous fortune could not stop Monarchs from hurtling over the winning post with bags to spare.
It wasn’t a great evening for Sneddon to be truthful. Even although he scored 11 points, he was passed ever so easily on three separate occasions, and his vulnerability at times when he is in leading positions, needs to be addressed as Monarchs now hit the business end of the season.
Ona brighter note Max Fricke, who guested for Belle Vue Aces in the Elite League on Monday, looked a lot sharper for that experience and raked in 11 points from his five outings and this included two wins.
“I felt pretty good out there,” he said. ”I was a bit unlucky in the heat 15 finale, I wanted so badly to follow Craig home for a 5-1, but I had to settle for third place in the race, we still got a 4-2, but it would have been nice to have finished with a maximum heat advantage.”
Teammate Theo Pijper clocked a 12-point maximum from his four rides and looked pretty sharp from the gate in all his outings.
Allen was the only visitor to post a double-figure return, and his ten points were way ahead of any of his teammates who were found wanting too often for their own good.
Only Anders Mellgren, who weighed in with seven, offered Allen any semblance of back-up.
Monarchs: Cook 14, Pijper 12, Fricke 11, Sneddon 11, Tabaka 6, Vissing 3, Bates 1.
Rye House: Allen 10, Mellgren 7, Aspgren 5, Lykke 5, Bunyan 4, Nelson 2, MacDonald 1.