It’s a truism that adversity often brings out qualities in sporting teams which are often untapped until the going gets tough. Edinburgh Monarchs have called upon such strengths over the past fortnight which has helped them prevail against top opposition Workington Comets and Leicester Lions respectively.
But it is another Friday and another tough home assignment for Monarchs when they play host to Ipswich Witches in the first leg of the speedway League Cup semi-final at Armadale tonight.
Monarchs are still soldiering on without their sidelined reserve ace Mitchell Davey and skipper Derek Sneddon admits his continued absence is tough. “We are all missing Mitchell, not only for his points scoring, but he is a friendly face around the pits, a real bubbly character.”
The other thing perversely which is forcing Monarchs to dig more deeply than they would like for success is the recent spell of dry weather which has turned the Lothian Arena circuit into something akin to the Sahara Desert.
Sneddon explains: “It’s plain for everyone to see that the track is not exactly the way we would like it and this is making life difficult for us. But I know the track staff are working hard behind the scenes to rectify that. I’m not in any way having a dig at the track staff, the unusually warm summer has baked the track leading to slick conditions, which unfortunately do not suit us, and you lose your home advantage because of it.
“We are not a team of fast gaters so if you miss the start it is hard to pass.”
In a dry environment last week, Monarchs certainly had their character forensically examined as they fought back to defeat a doughty Leicester side 52-37, a scoreline Sneddon confessed he couldn’t quite believe. “The score definitely flattered us,” he said. “In no way did it reflect how the evening went for us. I had no idea we won by the margin we did and I was shocked to discover we defeated them by so much.”
Dane Claus Vissing claimed a fair degree of credit for the victory and Sneddon feels his team-mate is at last showing the ability to win races on a consistent basis.
“Claus got a new engine done by Scott James specially for Armadale and it worked well for him. He was a bit wild in his first couple of races, but Claus’s talent was never in any doubt, he just needed a bike set-up which is hopefully working for him now.”
With Davey not expected to return to action until next week, Max Fricke has been flying the flag at the tail-end, however, the young Aussie endured a bit of a rough time against Leicester which brought to an end his recent run of double figure scores.
Sneddon said: “Max has been on a high the last few weeks and has been banging in some big scores home and away, but you have to remember he is still inexperienced riding in the Premier League.
“But when you start to score double figures each week, and one week you don’t, then you beat yourself up about it. But overall Max has been fantastic.”
Ipswich, who haven’t really lived up to their status since dropping down to the Premier League, are at the moment, however, looking ominously dangerous and their recent win at Workington, the first side to down the Comets at Derwent Park this season, underlines the threat they carry.
“They are a solid side and have riders who have performed at a good level,” Sneddon said. “They may have performed under-par in recent seasons but are coming good again, and we will have to be on top of our game.”
One of the big battles will be between Craig Cook, who won his first Team GB World Cup cap this week, and Witches potent ace Ben Barker, and Sneddon has no doubts over who will win this contest.
“I honestly don’t think Craig cares who he is up against, he just goes out and turns on the style and no words can describe the fantastic form he is in.”
Sneddon won’t be drawn as to the size of lead he wants to take down to Foxhall Heath for the second leg on July 25, saying: “I don’t do scores, I just want to win the match, obviously by a big margin. But based on what has happened recently, even if Ipswich turned us over, there is every chance we would go to their place and win.”
Coventry’s National League rider James Sarjeant will again deputise for Davey at reserve.