REPORT Saturday 26th June 2021, 0:21am
It was cold and damp at Armadale as the What the Fork Monarchs found Scunthorpe as expected to be sticky opposition – only in the final three heats did the home side pull clear for a 52-38 victory.
It didn't feel anything like a June evening should feel, but there were plenty of good things for fans of both teams to relish – none more than the thrilling battles between Josh Pickering and Theo Pijper which sent the fans home with a warm glow. All night the Dutchman made brilliant use of a cunning inside line on the pits corner, a move he used to beat Worrall in heat 7 and Pickering two heats later.
Heat 14 was the culmination of these Pickering v Pijper battles. They had previously won one each against the other when Josh gated in this penultimate race. He was just in front when remarkably Joe Lawlor passed Adam Ellis, and Ellis then came down trying to re-pass.
So we had a rerun between the two entertainers to enjoy and this was the best of the lot, Josh eventually bursting through on lap three to win.
He said "I had good battles with Theo throughout the night, he got me in heat 9. I made a couple of little mistakes, I felt I could have had him but he's done a lot of laps around that track and he can ride a perfect race. I felt I could have got past him but Theo was just on the perfect line every time.
"For heat 14 obviously I made a perfect start in the first run, that was from the only good spot on my grid. For the rerun I didn't have any other spot to go off – I knew it was going to be hard! I was trying to build up speed and I planned to wait to trick him, but there was no tricking him! He was riding another perfect race, going up to the dirt. He knew where I would be. I had to back myself but I also had to have faith in him to not stuff me up in the middle of the corner. But I had every intention to win it and I'm so glad I did it."
Monarchs were also grateful to captain Sam Masters with a paid maximum, and Richie Worrall who dropped just one point to the remarkable Pijper. They really needed their big guns firing because a lot of the minor placings were going to the visitors. Monarchs were never behind but their lead was limited to the range 0 to 4 points between the opening heat and heat 12.
Once again Kye Thomson showed that he can't be discounted and he took a crucial heat 12 win which maintained the Monarchs' 4-point lead at that stage.
Masters and Worrall then doubled the advantage with a powerful ride against Adam Ellis who looked as though he hadn't quite settled in to Championship racing yet on his debut. Then followed that match-clinching and thrilling heat 14.
Scorpions unfortunately lost Thomas Jorgensen during the night. He fell in heat 4 chasing Richie Worrall, and although he managed a good second place in his next ride, it was then announced that he was withdrawing from the meeting, which meant that injury rider replacement applied. Given that they were also missing their young reserve Jordan Palin Scunthorpe can justifiably claim that things might have been different. They were well served by Lambert, Aarnio and MacDonald as well as top man Pijper.