Magic Monarchs look to cast spell on Witches

Monarchs captain Derek Sneddon. Pic: RON MacNEILL
Monarchs captain Derek Sneddon. Pic: RON MacNEILL
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Ipswich Witches visit Armadale tonight hoping to end Edinburgh Monarchs’ 11-match winning streak.

Amid the fanfare of creating club history, Monarchs have soared to the top of the Premier League and lead their rivals by four points.

Even this early in the season, Monarchs, who have only raced three league fixtures, already look to have guaranteed their place in the end-of-season play-offs in September.

“Unless something cataclysmic happens, we should qualify,” said Monarchs director Mike Hunter. “Then, of course, the hard work will have to start all over again.”

Skipper Derek Sneddon is confident Monarchs can keep their winning run against the Witches. In spite of some early setbacks, which included a dropped home point against Newcastle Diamonds, Ipswich should be among the main contenders for honours come the end of the season.

They reached the play-offs and were finalists in the League Cup last season, yet are already out of this year’s competition, but, on paper, their side looks stronger this time around. Their two new riders, are Richie Worrall (Monarchs ace Stevie’s twin) and exciting young American Gino Manzares, and they are paired together in the opening heat.

Sneddon, however, is confident they can be overcome.

“Ipswich have a good team, although they have shown a wee dip recently,” he said. “We won’t be getting over-confident but I think we can get another win.”

While some rivals have been showing patchy form, Monarchs have been ultra-consistent. Their recent away triumphs at Scunthorpe Scorpions and Plymouth Devils have ensured confidence is sky-high at Armadale.

Sneddon is particulary satisfied by the mentality of his team as they have been able to hold their nerve when the going gets tough. “We started the meeting at Scunthorpe with all guns blazing,” he recalled. “Then Scunthorpe came back at us to regain the lead. It was probably the first time this year that we were put under proper pressure, and it was fantastic how the boys dug deep to get the result in the end.

“Sam Masters openly admitted that Scunthorpe was probably one of his worst tracks and jokingly said to John afterwards: ‘Think yourself lucky I scored five points!’ It isn’t top of my favourite tracks either, so to go there and win was fantastic.”

Monarchs only had a point in hand with two races left but Sneddon grabbed a vital second place in that penultimate race. He admitted: “Heat 14 was a big race for us and I knew I just had to get out of the gate, which thankfully I did, and Stevie (Worrall) passed Thomas Jorgensen who is no slouch, giving us a vital 3-3. Max (Fricke) and Craig (Cook) did the business with a 5-1 in the last heat, but the match was tighter than the final 48-43 score suggested.”

Monarchs’ 52-40 victory at Plymouth on Saturday saw them ride into the record books. And it was Justin Sedgmen who took centre stage romping to a 14 point total from six rides.

Sneddon said: “Justin was brilliant and there are not that many riders who can attack the track like he does when he is out in front. But the first three or four races were very difficult. It was very bumpy, the surface had a bit of everything, but after some grading it came good.

“Most of the boys made it look very easy. Stevie is such an intelligent rider and nothing fazes him. He has been the signing of the season for us.”

Tonight’s match is held in association with the Armadale Gala Day Committee and will include a bouncy castle and a face painter. In addition, there will be a free gift for every child.

MONARCHS have agreed to return to Ipswich on May 29 for the restaging of their washed out league match.