Team Manager: Alex Harkess
|1. Sam Masters||3||3||2||2||2*||12||1|
|2. Nathan Greaves||1||1||2*||0||4||1|
|3. Kye Thomson||1||1*||1*||1*||4||3|
|4. Josh Pickering||3||2||2||3||3||13||0|
|5. Richie Worrall||FD||2||2||1*||5||1|
|6. Joe Lawlor||1||F||0||1||0|
|7. William Lawson||0||3||3||2||2*||10||1|
Team Manager: Stewart Dickson
|1. Nick Morris||2||3||3||3||1||12||0|
|2. Ty Proctor||0||0||1||1||2||0|
|3. Kyle Howarth||2||3||1||3||0||9||0|
|4. Josh Bates||0||1||3||FD||4||0|
|5. Ryan Douglas||F||2||3||0||5||0|
|6. Dan Thompson||2*||0||0||2||1|
|7. Joe Thompson||3||2||FD||0||1||6||0|
As expected tonight's match against Leicester was a tremendously hard-fought affair, with the What the Fork Monarchs landing two 5-1 blows in heats 14 and 15 to run out 49-40 winners in the end.
This is a misleading scoreline as there was only a point between the teams for much of the night, but team manager Alex Harkess believed it was a very important result for the Monarchs.
"What pleased me most was their determination," he said. "They fought for everything. Josh Pickering and Sam Masters were top scorers but the man who changed the match was William Lawson.
"And that was after a last place in heat two! He made changes to his bike after that, rode a brilliant heat 4 to win, then started changing everything again!
"To beat Leicester by 9 on a night when Richie Worrall only scored 5 was very impressive and I was happy with the whole team. Kye Thomson did well again with four third places, all important ones."
The match had started with Masters beating Morris and a good point for Nathan Greaves in the opener. Monarchs went behind for the only time in the match when the Thompson twins took a 5-1 in heat 2, which was particularly disappointing for Lawson who had won this heat in both home fixtures so far.
Pickering beat Howarth in heat 3 with Thomson third to level the scores, then we had a curious heat 4. Richie Worrall fell in the first running on the pits turn, chasing Douglas who had made a lightning start, then a transformed Lawson moved ahead of Douglas in the rerun and looked like holding it until Douglas fell in the same place as Worrall!
His bike was partly under the air fence so he didn't get the chance to remount to claim the third place, so that's where the Monarchs' single point advantage first came from.
Nick Morris headed Pickering in heat 5, then Masters passed Douglas in heat 6 with Greaves taking another point to put Monarchs 3 ahead. Richie Worrall chased Kyle Howarth all the way in heat 7 but Kyle's win made it a 1-point gap again.
It did look as though Ty Proctor was going to win heat 8 though he was a little erratic, however the race was stopped when Joe Thompson came off and punctured the air fence. For the second time Willie Lawson took advantage of a rerun and raced ahead in the rerun, with Greaves also passing Proctor later in the race for a 5-1. This has been a problem heat for Monarchs in earlier matches.
After a shared heat 9 we suddenly had a race win for Josh Bates over Masters, even though Sam tried inside and out to peg him back. A Morris win over Worrall meant another 2-4 and we were back to that single point again.
Howarth looked very impressive in winning heat 12 but Lawson and Kye Thomson pegged back Joe Thompson, with Kye's third again being the reward for a good battling ride and a pass on the last lap.
And so to heat 13 with 4 powerhouse performers – and it was Nick Morris best away to head a hard pressing Masters all the way. It wasn't Richie's night but he kept battling to the end and took Ryan Douglas late in the race to maintain that advantage.
The opening lap of heat 14 was the most important of the night. Bates had won his previous race and seemed to make the start, but another clever second corner by Lawson eased him ahead, with Pickering also squeezing ahead of Bates by the third turn. Bates tried to retaliate but locked up and fell, leading to a Monarchs 5-1 in the rerun which virtually secured the win.
All that was left was a possible point for the Lions, but Masters got his best gate of the night, joined by the flying Pickering with a glorious outside sweep. Two late wins for Josh Pickering meant the winning gap was suddenly 9 points, a transformation after such a tight fixture.
With one foot teetering perilously over the Knockout Cup abyss, the Monarchs headed to Tyneside on Sunday determined to make amends for a lacklustre first leg display two days earlier.
Despite treating the Diamonds to a first heat 5-1 at Armadale, Edinburgh failed to improve upon that four-point margin by the meeting's end, and suddenly their stay in the tournament hung by a thread.
Had we simply become the latest in a long line of detractors to treat Newcastle too lightly? Or was it just a bad night at the office? A bad night that could have gotten a whole lot worse but for the sterling efforts of our Maximum Men, Richie Worrall (full) and Sam Masters (paid).
Our skipper's contractual absence at Brough Park was a further blow although having former Monarch and twin brother to Richie, Stevie Worrall, available to step in as a guest must have helped send the team south with a decent degree of optimism. And it proved to be well founded as the Diamonds' bid to get their teeth into a fightback never got off the ground.
Indeed, it was Heat 6 before they gained their first race advantage and although Roynan and Wright's bagged a 5-1 two heats later to set up the potential for a rousing finale, Edinburgh refused to relinquish any more ground over the remaining seven heats and, by the end, cruised through to the next round with a comfortable 18-point aggregate win.
On Friday it's back to league business with the visit to Armadale of the Watling JCB Leicester Lions. Of course, 2019 saw the East Midlands club win major silverware for the first time, namely a Championship Title and Shield double.
Covid's untimely intervention must have been particularly frustrating then for an on-fire outfit desperate to defend that title. And despite only three members of the 2019 squad, Josh Bates, Ty Proctor and Ryan Douglas, remaining at Beaumont Park, the promotion team of Marc Bates, Dave Darcy, and team boss Stewart Dickson, have recruited impressively, to such an extent, in fact, that their charges are already being touted in some quarters as strong candidates to go the distance once again.
Of the 'old guard' though, Barnsley-born Bates has previously ridden for Leicester on three separate occasions, 2014, 2017 and 2019, and the Lions' hierarchy were quick to make it four after last season's proposed move to Somerset floundered due to Covid. And with his 6.19 average placing him as far down the rankings among their opening septet as fifth, the club's credentials for a prosperous season are further reinforced. Josh will double up in the Premiership with Sheffield Tigers.
34-year-old Ty Proctor will join Bates in the team's middle order and the Australian, who will also ride in the Premiership with King's Lynn, seems the type of points-scoring foil that must be a heat leader's dream.
And one of those Lions' heat leaders will be 27-year-old Ryan Douglas whose five year stint with the Scunthorpe Scorpions has given him bags of experience at this level. Another to divide team loyalties with the country's top tier, the ever-popular and highly-rated Aussie will also extend his Premiership with Wolverhampton for the season ahead. Ryan's reputation for being stronger on away tracks can be backed up by statistics, so he will be keen to improve his form at the Paul Chapman & Sons Arena at the earliest opportunity.
It might be that Leicester's fortunes this season will largely fall on the quality of the team's newcomers and in Nick Morris and Kyle Howarth, they have picked up experienced campaigners whose annual usage of silver polish must be substantial for all the trophies the years have bestowed upon them.
At the age of 26, Morris already has six league titles under his belt, and is as tenacious a competitor as they come. As he has done repeatedly in the past, the Australian will relish the nuances of Armadale's tricky circuit. New skipper, Howarth, has already sampled the Monarch's track this season and, although his guest spot for Newcastle seven days ago was perhaps one to forget for the Mancunian, it would be wise to heed the old adage that lightning never strikes in the same place twice.
In common with their team-mates in the main body of the team, Nick and Kyle are also contracted to ride in the Premiership, with Wolverhampton and Sheffield respectively.
One area where the Lions may lack the maturity of previous seasons is at reserve. However, in twins Dan and Joe Thompson, the club has handed chances of a lifetime to youngsters of boundless potential whose knowledge of their home track can only be enhanced by their continued inclusion in the Lion Cubs' set-up. It will be Joe who satisfies the Rising Star requirement.
So, Friday's meeting should be a tightly-contested affair with the Monarchs, even at full strength, having to be at their best to succeed. Despite Leicester's outstanding 2019 title feat, both of their clashes with the Monarchs proved close with the home side coming out on top on both occasions, the Lions by five points at Beaumont Park and Edinburgh by a single point at Armadale.
On Saturday, the Monarchs make the long journey south to Eastbourne where their Championship clash with the H.G. Aerospace Eagles at Arlington starts at 7.30 pm.
You can watch Friday's match against Leicester live on EMTV for £11.99. Click below to pre-order your access:
Friday 11th June 2021, 10:00am
If you are attending Armadale Stadium tonight for the first time this season, you will find it slightly different from normal with many measures in place for your safe return to enjoying speedway!
Wednesday 9th June 2021, 4:00pm
The What the Fork Monarchs are in the unusual position of being unbeaten in the four matches staged so far this season, and yet by common consent not firing on all cylinders so far. They will certainly need to be at their best when the most recent (ie 2019) League Champions Leicester come to Armadale on Friday.
Wednesday 9th June 2021, 8:00am
Order your copy of the What The Fork Monarchs v Leicester Lions matchday magazine now - a perfect accompaniment to your EMTV:Live experience!