REPORT Friday 20th August 2021, 11:04pm
The What the Fork Monarchs snatched a somewhat unexpected 44-44 draw against Kent Kings tonight, taking a last heat 5-1 over the previously unbeatable Scott Nicholls who landed in the air fence trying a passing move on Josh Pickering.
Monarchs' team boss Alex Harkess said "We've managed to get a draw but I have to say it felt like a defeat. We were very disappointing. We weren't getting out of the starts and were up against it all night. Congratulations to Kent on a very good performance."
It had all started quite promisingly for the home side with two 4-2s. Sam Masters beat Batchelor in heat 1 with Lawson comfortably third, and Nathan Greaves pulled off an excellent fourth corner pass on Dan Gilkes in heat 2. In this one Luke Crang took his first point for Monarchs, which will take some pressure off him.
Masters took the first rider replacement ride for Richie Worrall in heat 3 and won it, but the chance of an advantage was lost as Kye Thomson touched the tapes and could make no headway from 15 metres. This heat also saw the signs that Cameron Heeps was in for a good night, passing and repassing with Masters on the opening couple of laps.
So Monarchs provided the first three race winners. From that point, believe it or not, Kent had the next TEN. It's a long time since any team did that at Armadale.
It did look like Pickering might round Nicholls on the opening bends of heat 4 but Scott moved Josh over and prevented the move. Batchelor took heat 5 before Nicholls showed his true class to pass the faster gating Masters in heat 6. The former British Champion truly is World Class at Armadale – he came in so fast to the pits turn on lap two, so close to his opponent's back wheel, but turned so smoothly and sweetly that he swept to the front. A joy to watch.
Kings were on a 5-1 in the early stages of heat 7, but Pickering split them by passing Starke, who then lifted and came off going over the start line. His bike went off the track so there was no need for a stoppage. However later in the race Pickering spun off on the fourth turn, and most felt there was again no need for a stoppage with Crang coming inside the fallen rider.
Pickering thus had no chance to remount and the race was awarded as a 3-2, the first of two such heat results.
This left Monarchs three ahead and probably most felt that Lawson and Greaves would extend the lead in heat 8 against Morley and Gilkes, based on what we had seen so far. Far from it! It was the visitors who cleared off for as easy a 5-1 as you are ever likely to see. That was Kings one point ahead, and that heat was something of a match-turner.
Heeps just kept on getting better and in heat 10 he beat Masters with Starke well clear of Lawson for the point. Pickering still hadn't won a heat but he might have had cause for grievance in heat 11 when he was taken out on the first corner by Batchelor, and came off. This was a harder move then Nicholls in heat 4 but Pickering was given no second chance. As Morley had failed to leave the tapes he was also out as Luke Crang had his second two pointer in a two man rerun.
Monarchs were now 4 down and looking for somewhere to regain the ground. It might have been heat 12 but after Thomson and Greaves had gated, Starke came sailing past them down the back straight to take the kind of vital win he specialises in.
On to heat 13 and Nicholls again flew to the front to win easily. Batchelor had the least productive gate 1 and this time didn't score, leaving the gap at 4 points.
After 10 successive race wins to Kent, Kye Thomson finally got to the front in heat 14, but Heeps and Gilkes comfortably shared it with Greaves well back.
So Monarchs needed a 5-1 for the draw, which seemed most unlikely against Nicholls. However this time Masters and Pickering manoeuvred their way to the front. By now the outside ribbon of grip had narrowed and Nicholls came down attempting to squeeze round the outside. The heat was awarded.
All the riders were out on parade, Monarchs on their bikes getting a good reception for at least finishing strongly, and Kent on their feet getting noisily cheered by both their own fans and many of the home support. They certainly deserved it.