Edinburgh Monarchs aim to deliver a final Knockout blow to Newcastle Diamonds on Tyneside tomorrow.
The home team must overturn a deficit of 22 points from the first leg of the Knockout Cup semi-final if they are to deny Monarchs – a task which is as improbable as it is daunting.
Today Monarchs make the trip to Workington Comets for their penultimate Premier League match of the 2015 campaign. Monarchs cannot be overtaken at the top of the table but if they defeat Workington and mug Berwick Bandits on Friday at home, they will finish a ten points clear of second place Somerset Rebels and go into the play-offs to decide the title full of confidence.
It may seem as if Monarchs’ excursion to Tyneside is nothing more than a formality, but for reserve rider Rob Branford, caution remains his watchword.
“We are certainly not thinking it’s going to be too easy for us because anything can happen in this sport. However, it would be hard to go to Newcastle and lose by 22 points.
“Newcastle is a tricky type of track and I don’t think that anybody rates it as their favourite, it definitely is not my favourite track in the league, although I have had some good meetings there over the years and I scored double figures on my last visit. If you can make some good starts you can score points, if you don’t it’s quite hard to score.”
Branford was not shocked by the scale of Monarchs’ 56-34 first-leg victory, even after Newcastle had ousted Glasgow Tigers in the quarter-finals.
“Nothing surprises me about riding for Edinburgh, we are such a strong team and on our day we are capable of beating anyone. Obviously it was our aim to obtain as big a lead as possible to take down to Newcastle.”
Not that Branford was too elated about his own personal performance at Armadale. “I dropped a few silly points that night. In once race we were on a paid win and I came into the corner and missed it and I got passed by Ludvig Lindgren and that cost me a couple of points. It then rained late on and I got filled in quite a lot and slipped from third place to last in another race.
“In my eyes I shouldn’t have dropped those points. But the main thing was that the team won. I put in as much effort as I could and you can’t do any more than that.”
Providing Monarchs get through they will face either Somerset or Rye House Rockets in the Final.
“Somerset will be favourites to beat Rye House,” added Branford. “It could be a tough Final because Somerset is always a very hard track to go to, and for me it’s not a circuit I have ever gone well at, but I now may get an opportunity to change that.”
Monarchs, who face Glasgow in the League Cup Final, with the first leg at Armadale on Friday, September 25, and the deciding tie at Ashfield two days later, are on track for a possible second trophy treble in 2015 which would add another glittering chapter to their history. And Branford confessed the portents looked good for such a feat as soon as he touched down in Scotland from Australia.
“When I looked at our team I thought ‘this is a side who can win the league again’. I also thought that me and Max (Clegg) could be the difference between winning and losing because we were inexperienced at reserve. Fortunately for us both we have come on quite a lot this season and on our day we are good for double figures.
“And importantly everyone else in the team are holding their averages. As a rider it’s great that we are in the hunt for everything again.”
Even though the Workington fixture is of no great significance Branford insisted it’s still a matter of personal pride to go out and deliver for the team. “I can’t speak for any other rider but I find no matter what meeting you compete in you must try and win it and also win as many races as you can.
“You probably don’t put yourself on the line as much as you would if you really needed to. But Monarchs are a winning team with a winning mentality and we are going to Workington in exactly that frame of mind.”
Monarchs will be without Erik Riss and Max Clegg for the Workington clash. Riss is competing in a long track event in Germany while Clegg bids for glory in the British Under-19 championship at Berwick this evening. Both will be available for Newcastle tomorrow.
And Sam Masters has also declared himself fit for both meetings following a tumble at Belle Vue Aces two weeks ago. “I had some shoulder pain,” he said. “-But I’ve had some physio this week and I’m ready to go.”