Speedway: Monarchs beaten but unbowed

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As A rehearsal for their more important Premier League Cup visit later this month, Edinburgh Monarchs were far from disheartened by the narrow margin of their 47-45 defeat at Berwick Bandits on Saturday in the first leg of the Cock O’ the North trophy.

Monarchs’ main priority was to get in and get out with all their squad intact and this they achieved despite minor falls suffered by Max Fricke and reserve Jozsef Tabaka.

Tabaka has been pinpointed as the Monarchs secret weapon this season and the Hungarian’s 11-point total from five rides was evidence enough that he intends to dominate the tail-end as he did in 2012 until injury intervened.

Tabaka’s best victory came in heat 14 when he held off a fierce challenge from former Monarchs skipper Matthew Wethers who threw everything but the kitchen sink at the diminutive Hungarian.

“I knew he was right behind me,” said Tabaka, “but I managed to cover all his moves and it was a very good win for me. Apart from a fall in my second ride I rode well and was very happy with my first match of the new season.”

Monarchs No.1 Craig Cook, who unlike most of his teammates, had already blown away the winter cobwebs with Belle Vue Aces in the Elite League, looked pretty sharp and he topped his side’s score chart with 14 points.

His only defeat came at the hands of Wethers in a cracking duel in the fifth race. “I knew it would be hard against Matthew,” said Cook. “He was off gate three and I was off gate four, which was a bit slick. I made a decent start but spun a bit, and Matthew got the better off me into the turn. I chased hard, but Matthew rode the perfect race.”

Cook added: “It was a decent night for the whole team and everybody was happy and we won’t have any fears when we go back for the League Cup tie.

“The track was probably the best I have seen it. At the start of a new season you certainly don’t want to be riding in a foot of shale and the Berwick management did a great job in making it safe for the riders.”

Dane Claus Vissing made a decent debut and picked up nine points from his five starts which included a win in his third race.

Despite celebrating his 17th birthday on Friday, Fricke will probably feel disappointed within himself at failing to score. He tumbled off after going a bit too wide in his first ride, but was more steady thereafter, and Berwick is certainly not the easiest circuit in the world for any baptism.

Monarchs trailed by six points going into the last heat, but they ended on a positive note with a 5-1 from Cook and Vissing over Kozza Smith and Robin Aspegren.

Perhaps the one disappointment was skipper Derek Sneddon who only managed two points. Monarchs director Mike Hunter said: “On the basis of what we did, we should do a lot better next time, when hopefully Max may score something and Derek should also improve. The main thing was all the team escaped unscathed.”

Berwick: Smith 10, Wethers 8, Aspegren 8, Ashworth 7, Bellego 6, Edberg 5, Barrett 3.

Monarchs: Cook 14, Tabaka 11, Vissing 9, Pijper 8, Sneddon 2, Helfer 1, Fricke 0.