Speedway: Track angers Monarchs No. 1 despite win

Craig Cook leads teammate Derek Sneddon. Picture: David Kinvig
Craig Cook leads teammate Derek Sneddon. Picture: David Kinvig
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EDINBURGH MONARCHS No.1 Craig Cook today blasted the state of the track at Berwick Bandits on Saturday, minutes after the speedway side had clinched a tremendous 48-42 opening League Cup win which has virtually guaranteed their progress to the semi-finals.

While Cook stopped short of calling the deep surface dangerous, he fumed: “There are less holes in Beirut than there were on the Berwick track, I simply don’t have the words to describe how bad it was.

“Thankfully, the whole team came away in one piece, and that was the main thing for us, I’m so happy everybody survived because riding a speedway bike is not easy especially around Berwick the way it was.”

Cook and team-mate Claus Vissing were the heroes for Monarchs in a see-saw meeting they made pretty heavy weather of. But the in-form duo scored vital 5-1 advantages in heats 13 and 15 to push their side over the winning line after the Bandits grabbed maximum points themselves in the penultimate race to make Monarchs sweat for their eventual triumph.

Vissing scored 13 points from his five starts – one more than Cook who picked up 12. Vissing is quickly emerging as a true big-track specialist which Monarchs have hankered after for years. But Cook is no slouch either and it must be some considerable time that a Monarchs squad has contained two top riders who can cope with the vagaries of Berwick’s Shielfield Park bowl, and this could be a big advantage for Monarchs’ title push this season.

Most of the Monarchs’ side enjoyed their own moments and contributed to a victory which earned them three precious points which negated the single away point Berwick gained at Glasgow recently.

Reserve Jozsef Tabaka came from last to second in heat two to follow partner Marcel Helfer home for a brilliant 5-1 – and full credit must go to Helfer for an excellent victory.

Tabaka then replaced his skipper Derek Sneddon in heat 11 and this astute move by Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess paid off as the Hungarian partnered Cook to a 5-1 at a crucial stage of the match.

Max Fricke, who failed to score against the Bandits in the Cock o’ The North challenge last month, atoned this time when he collected an excellent third-place point against Alex Edberg in the seventh race.

Dutchman Theo Pijper won two races, the second a critical win over useful Bandit Kozza Smith in heat 12.

Skipper Sneddon was the only Monarch who genuinely toiled scoring just two points from three starts.

Harkess, despite watching Cook go to sleep when he was caught by Berwick’s rampant Frenchman David Bellego in the opening race, confessed he never doubted Monarchs’ had the capabilities to defeat a Berwick team who had to use rider replacement for their injured captain Ricky Ashworth.

Said Harkess: “I always thought we had the strength required from the start. And switching Jozsef to go out in heat 11 gave us just what needed to open up a gap on Berwick. Jozsef was supposed to win heat 12 as well but didn’t read the script.

“But the result was very acceptable and it takes the pressure off us for the whole competition now. We are virtually in the semi-finals and we can only throw it away ourselves now.”

Berwick: Bellego 12, Smith 10, Wethers 9, Barrett 6, Aspegren 5, Edberg 0.

Monarchs: Vissing 13, Cook 12, Tabaka 9, Pijper 8, Helfer 3, Sneddon 2, Fricke 1.