If Edinburgh Monarchs were looking for a lift ahead of tonight’s vital play-off semi-final encounter against Workington Comets at Armadale, they got it at Sheffield Tigers last night in a dramatic rearranged Premier League fixture at Owlerton Stadium.
It may have been regarded as a run-of-the-mill contest, but Monarchs pulled out all the stops and tamed a patched-up Tigers squad 47-45 after seemingly cruising to victory when they led by ten points with just two races remaining.
But the Tigers, who were missing a quartet of home riders, snatched 5-1 advantages in heats 14 and 15 which embellished the final scoreline and removed some degree of polish from Monarchs’ overall display.
Not that the Capital outfit will care too much, because importantly they avoided any injuries which was their principal concern as they stand on the brink of another Grand Final appearance providing they shoot down the Comets this weekend.
Monarchs co-promoter John Campbell had said Monarchs would treat the Sheffield encounter in exactly the same manner as they would do any meeting, and said: “It was a match we had to complete in our fixture list and we went into it simply wanting to win. That has been our mentality all season and we got the victory the whole team wanted.”
Three points is the target for Monarchs at home this evening to remain unbeaten in their play-off group section. And should they achieve this, they will require just a point at Derwent Park in the crunch return tie tomorrow night to put their qualification for the climax of the Premier League season beyond doubt.
However, Campbell, despite publicly stating that Monarchs would win all their group matches, is too seasoned an operator to dismiss Workington altogether because they do possess riders who have proven credentials round the Lothian Arena.
Campbell declared: “Three points is definitely what we are aiming for, and we are all determined to do that to make things easier for us down there tomorrow.”
Workington have imploded over the course of this year after a clutch of pundits earmarked them as potential league champions. And Campbell is not exactly sure why things have gone so awry for the Cumbrian side.
“They certainly have under-performed and I have been surprised by that and cannot think of a reason why that has been the case. But it can happen in speedway sometimes.”
Providing Monarchs make it through, they will not discover their Grand Final opposition until later next month, and while some would relish the chance to face Somerset Rebels again to avenge last year’s heartbreak, Campbell is not altogether persuaded, saying: “I’d like the weakest team in the other section to win through! But if it is Somerset again so be it.”
Without doubt Monarchs have been the team who have dominated the regular league campaign in 2014 and they finished top of the pile prior to the play-off skirmishes.
Asked if he would then feel frustrated if his side were to be thwarted when the crunch comes, Campbell replied: “The only thing that would irritate me would be a repeat of the similar circumstances of last season, when we were perhaps the best team, and Somerset’s Nick Morris got in the way.”
Morris ploughed into Monarchs’ Hungarian star Jozsef Tabaka in the home leg of the final which ended any hopes Monarchs had of lifting a fourth crown.
Campbell went on: “That’s the kind of thing that would upset me. But if we are beaten by a better team, then I can accept that.
“But we have to finish off our qualification job first before we even think of the final.”
Workington suffered a huge blow in their quest to put the brakes on Monarchs this week when their Australian star Josh Grajczonek broke his collar-bone at the Premier League Riders’ Championship.
They have brought in Berwick’s Kevin Doolan as a guest and Newcastle’s Stuart Robson will deputise tomorrow.
Ryan McDonald replaces reserve Joe Jacobs, who has been compelled to ride for his Elite League side Wolverhampton in a meaningless fixture at Coventry.
Sheffield: Lanham 15, Bellego 11, Wilson 8, Campton 4, Covatti 4, Sarjeant 3.
Monarchs: Fricke 12, Masters 11, Sedgmen 8, Cook 8, Sneddon 4, Worrall 3, Fox 1.
n IPSWICH defeated Scun-thorpe 57-35 in their first group fixture last night.