Edinburgh Monarchs head into the second half of the speedway season still sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League. And that’s where co-promoter John Campbell wants them to stay before the commencement of the championship play-off programme next month.
Monarchs face Newcastle Diamonds at Armadale tonight, their first league fixture in two weeks, and while some rivals have played catch up during that time, Campbell still thinks his side won’t be elbowed off the summit.
He said: “It would be disappointing if that happened having gone so well during the first part of the season. Our target was always to get into the top six and we have achieved that. We want to remain at the top. We don’t want to flop at the end and I’m sure that won’t happen.”
Campbell added: “Having not raced a league meeting for two weeks other teams have closed in a bit behind us, but whose not to say by this time next week after we complete our upcoming southern tour, that we might have 18 or more points in the bag, you never know.”
Having gone 24 matches unbeaten until Peterborough Panthers ended their history-making run, Monarchs remain clear favourites to get through their play-off group and contest the Grand Final to decide this year’s league crown.
And to that end Campbell was more than delighted to see Australian ace Sam Masters clinch the Scottish Open title last week having also just scored his first maximum for the club seven days earlier.
Masters had been struggling to stamp his authority round the Lothian Arena, his failure to get out of the starts shackling his attempts to win enough races, but Masters has at last ironed out those problems and is now looking a far more determined individual, and that can only benefit Monarchs greatly as they approach the business end of their 2014 campaign.
Campbell said: “I always felt Sam had to be determined into the first corner if he wanted to win races. Even at his best Sam was never going to pass the leaders in five races, but that was the position he had been putting himself in to try and get a win.
“The difference he has shown over the last two weeks is he now has a system to make getting out of the gate and into that first turn ahead happen. And he has shown the willpower to do that in our last two meetings at home.”
Campbell, while aware that Masters could now emerge as a pivotal performer for the club, makes the point that the rest of the tightly-knit squad hold the key to Monarchs’ silverware dreams.
“There are still many positives coming from the team. Justin (Sedgemen) for example was our best rider at the Premier League Fours on Sunday. He gets better and better.
“Max (Fricke) is generally good and Stevie (Worrall) continues to make good starts and is among the points. We just need our reserves (Derek Sneddon and Aaron Fox) to score a few more points.”
Monarchs’ tail-end remains their soft under-belly, but Campbell revealed that skipper Sneddon is fully aware of the responsibility he has in that role. “Derek realises he needs to score more, and he’ll do all he can to make sure it happens. He showed me a couple of engine bills he had to pay last week and that pleased me because I knew he had sent them away to get tuned to get the best out of them.”
However, Campbell also acknowledged that if his reserves cannot fulfil their scoring brief, then this could open the door for a dramatic return to league action for Jozsef Tabaka, who broke his leg ten months ago. The popular Hungarian rode in the Scottish Open picking up four points.
Campbell said: “Jozsef rode a borrowed a bike which he didn’t want to damage and didn’t really have a competitive edge, but I think he could be back to his best in two or three weeks. Hopefully I won’t have occasion to call him because I’d like to run with the same team that has done so well for us, but Jozsef is ready and available for whatever call he may get.”
Newcastle are one of two teams, Glasgow Tigers being the other, that Monarchs race four times this season. Currently Monarchs have beaten their Tyneside rivals twice, and it looks probable that the Diamonds will be 3-0 down unless they produce a king size shock tonight.