Edinburgh Monarchs are on the brink of booking their place in the League Cup speedway final as they defend a whopping 35-point first-leg lead over Sheffield Tigers in the deciding tie at Owlerton Stadium tonight.
Although it would take a monumental collapse to rob Monarchs of their chance of lifting an early piece of silverware in a few weeks’ time, Australian star Sam Masters urged a degree of caution. “Sheffield are a very good side round their own track and you need a good set-up to get round the place,” he said.
However it is hard to escape the fact that Monarchs virtually completed the job on home soil with their 63-28 triumph at Armadale two weeks ago.
Masters said: “We certainly gave Sheffield a bit of a flogging but we still need to get the points we need to make it through to the final. In reality we shouldn’t toss away the size of the lead we are taking down there, but stranger things have happened in speedway before.”
To illustrate that point, back in 2010, Monarchs hammered Sheffield 59-31 in the home leg of the play-off semi-final but, incredibly, lost the return leg 61-31 in Yorkshire and were eliminated two points on aggregate. “I don’t see that happening this time,” said Masters. “But we must ensure we make some decent starts. We can’t afford to do anything silly, we need to defend what we have got and not allow Sheffield to hit us with a series of 5-1’s early on.”
Masters feels, with the confidence and momentum Monarchs have at the moment, it is not beyond them to actually win the return leg as well. “It would be great to do that and keep our unbeaten run going,” he said. “It would be awesome, especially round a track like Sheffield. I think we can hit them hard from the off, but Sheffield is a big circuit which doesn’t suit everyone. The one thing you must have is decent machinery, you cannot afford to be under-powered or you’ll get slayed.
“It would be great to make the final and try and win a trophy, it would be good for the team and I think we deserve one right now. But we’ll just go out tonight and do the job we have been doing all season, it’s worked great for us so far.”
Teammate Justin Sedgmen, who powered to a paid 18-point maximum in the first match, said: “If we lose this now then we should all be sacked. We killed Sheffield off at Armadale and I can’t really see them coming back at us. We’ve got such a winning mentality that we want to come away with another victory – we won’t just be happy to defend our big advantage.”
Monarchs captain Derek Sneddon believes it was vital to have built up a big first-leg lead. “That was our aim in the first match,” he said. “Sheffield are a side with a reputation for having a big home advantage similar to ourselves at Armadale. Hopefully the lead we built up will be enough because all the boys played their part a fortnight ago.”
Sheffield are not in the best frame of mind for the encounter, having lost to Scunthorpe Scorpions last week, their third home defeat of the year.
And Tigers team manager Joe Screen admitted: “I felt pretty disheartened after that loss. We haven’t had as many meetings as some other teams because of the weather, but all the boys are trying their best to turn things around. We face a massive task against Edinburgh who look like they are going to win everything this season.”
In-form Tigers skipper Simon Stead, whose personal ten-point haul prevented a probable whitewash at Armadale, insists his side won’t be pushovers. “We are gunning for the Monarchs. I think it would be foolish to write us off on our own track.
“A lot of people forget we have not had a lot of track time in recent weeks and a lot of lads are race rusty.
“We obviously struggled up at Edinburgh when we were without Ty Proctor and Josh Bates, but you can’t take anything away from Edinburgh, they are a really good team and it is going to be extremely difficult for us.
“We will certainly be going out to secure every point we can. If we do that and, with a bit of luck, you never know what may happen.”