Edinburgh Monarchs
Isle of Wight Islanders
Premier League
Friday 26th May 2006
Armadale Stadium

Unusual conditions led to an unusual match against the Islanders, though Monarchs eventually pulled away to win comfortably.

It didn't look likely to be so easy early on. Isle of Wight provided 3 of the first 5 race winners and it wasn't until heat 6 that Monarchs took the lead. Thereafter all the race winners wore blue and gold.

It was a fine night for Rusty Harrison with a paid maximum, and as usual we were solid with everyone scoring at least five. The unpredictable Sean Stoddart bounced back after recent struggles with paid 8.

After heavy rain during the day the track was very heavy, requiring constant work by our fleet of tractors before and during the meeting.

Our first problem came in heat 1 as Theo slid into the fence on the first bend. That allowed Jason Doyle to win easly with Henrik hanging on to second though looking uncomfortable.

Heat 2 probably beat anyone who was trying the Monarchs' Golden Double, as Derek lost control on the pits turn to go to the back while Sean led all the way for a welcome win.

Jason Doyle took the first rider replacement ride for Marsh and won again, with the Pole Stojanowski tailed off.

Rusty Harrison was obviously on form again and flew to the front in heat 4. For a while Derek Sneddon held second but Jason Bunyan used the grippy outside well to pass him.

Chris Holder then won heat 5 and the score was 15-15.

Henrik was over-anxious in heat 6 and flew through the tapes. Sean Stoddart came in, and Theo this time won easily from Bunyan with Sean third to put us ahead.

The Islanders' middle pair was their Achilles heel and we took a 5-1 in heat 7. Stojanowski was second at one point but lost control on the pits bend, allowing Sean Stoddart to take a paid win.

It seemed we were through our bad patch as Derek and Theo led heat 8 - but Theo slid off on the pits bend! That left Derek to face the formidable Jason Doyle, but he led all the way.

At last William Lawson made a start, and he won heat 9 in the fastest time of the night.

Henrik and Theo took a 5-1 in heat 10 against the weak Islanders' pair without looking very convincing, and we grabbed another maximum advantage as Rusty again sat behind Derek (with Holder snapping at their heels) in heat 11. Doyle had been on a TR in this one but he fell on the first bend and was excluded. He seemed to injure a wrist and didn't ride again.

The third successive 5-1 seemed on the cards for heat 12 till Stojanowski fell. In the rerun Sean wasn't away well and this time couldn't overhaul Johnson.

There was another first bend crash in heat 13, Henrik locking up mid turn and the Islanders running into him. The decision to exclude Henrik seemed correct though there was some protest from Monarchs.

Rusty was chased all the way in the rerun by Holder, and Bunyan (on a TR) was so far back that he just doubled the third place point.

Heat 14 was quite interesting as Derek went from second to last, then back to third, finally just holding off Simmons as the Islanders' reserve tried to ride the grippy line.

Rusty completed his paid maximum in heat 15, again with Holder chasing hard on the grippy line and showing what a prospect he is.


Our home Premier League programme begins on Friday and first up we have the Isle of Wight who are now our most distant opponents since Exeter are no longer in the league.

The Islanders are embarking on a three day northern tour making the trips to Sheffield on Thursday and Armadale on Friday before travelling down to Berwick on Saturday. Usually they arrive with a number of enthusiastic fans who enjoy these trips in support of their team and who add an enthusiastic and vocal presence to the proceedings.

The Islanders have had a very difficult start to the season and lost heavily on a number of away matches before beginning their home programme. That didn't start too well either with defeats at the hands of Somerset and Rye House so a team change was made by dropping Robert Kasprzak and replacing him by Jason Bunyan. It wasn't until the 2nd of May that they managed a win when they finally beat Mildenhall 56-39 on the Island.

Since then the team has gone from strength to strength at home and look like being the formidable opponents of previous years on the Island. Away from home it remains to be seen how the new team will perform. They have a strong opening partnership in Chris Holder and Jason Doyle both of whom have shown good form home and away but it remains to be seen how they adapt to the Armadale circuit which is completely different to their big home track. The middle pairing has that typist's nightmare Krzysztof Stojanowski and Krister Marsh and it is with this pairing that the team may start to struggle to match us. Jason Bunyan fills the number 5 slot having recovered from a bad injury last year. He seems to be back on the pace and should provide strength at the bottom end of the team.

At reserve the Islanders have Chris Johnson, the former Reading rider, and Nick Simmons, formerly with Exeter, neither of whom has ever looked at ease at Armadale and this may well prove to be their Achilles heel. Add that to the modest record the Islanders have round Armadale over the years even when spearheaded by Danny Bird and Adam Shields a few years ago and it would be a major shock if any result other than a comfortable home win resulted from Friday's match.

Of course poor as they are round Armadale they are probably no worse than the Monarchs have been round the Smallbrook circuit. In the past our ambitions have rarely extended beyond taking the bonus point over the two matches and the question is always whether we have scored enough points at home to defend away for the aggregate win. This looks likely to be the case again this year.

With the Monarchs beginning to settle down to some good home performances they should have far too much strength throughout the team to give the Islanders much hope of a happy outcome but we must press home every point we can in this match so that we can approach the return match on the 1st of August with some confidence.