Tonight’s eagerly-awaited Premier League derby against a resurgent Glasgow Tigers at Armadale is not considered a season-defining match as far as Edinburgh Monarchs are concerned.
But the Capital outfit are keen to put the Tigers back in their cage as a reminder that, as four-time league champions, the Monarchs have been the dominant force in Scotland over the last few years.
The Tigers have had a barrage of publicity since they unveiled their revamped Ashfield base in April, and have a team to match their plush new surroundings. This can only benefit the sport in Scotland, because Monarchs need a strong Glasgow side to redress claims that fixtures between the sides had grown stale in recent times due to Monarchs’ superiority.
The race to reach the end-of-season play-offs is now picking up tempo and Glasgow currently occupy the sixth and final qualifying spot following their away win at Plymouth Devils last Saturday. And unless they do something stupid at home, the Tigers should sail into the play-off programme.
They have, however, let victory slip on a couple of occasions recently away from home, and gaffer Stewart Dickson said: “We really should be challenging at the top at the moment but we are not quite there yet.”
Glasgow would love to end Monarchs’ unbeaten record but were dealt a hammer blow when their Aussie star Kozza Smith broke his leg in a horror three-rider pile-up during Tigers’ 57-33 victory over Scunthorpe Scoprions on Sunday. “Kozza’s season is over, just as he was enjoying a wee upturn in form,” said Dickson. Speedway is a cruel sport in that way.”
Tigers will operate rider replacement for him and have recruited Steve Worrall as a guest for Nick Morris, who is riding for Australia in the World Team Cup final in Denmark tomorrow night.
Worrall could be an ace choice after amassing 16 points for his own team, Newcastle, on his last visit to the Lothian Arena in May. And Monarchs need no reminding of his scoring prowess when he was a gilt-edged reserve performer for them in 2014.
Tigers have also moved Richard Lawson to No.2 to partner Worrall and they will give Monarchs duo, No.1 Sam Masters and Rob Branford, plenty to think about in the opening heat.
Monarchs have beaten their oldest rivals twice at Armadale already, but the league fixture carries far more currency.
The jury is still out on whether the Tigers actually possess genuine title credentials and Monarchs ace Craig Cook commented: “We are the better team and I’m looking forward to their visit.”
Monarchs reserve pair Erik Riss and Max Clegg will need to up their game after disappointing performances against Ipswich Witches last week, otherwise their Glasgow counterparts Victor Palovaara and James Sarjeant could make hay.
Monarchs know that their top four are perhaps the strongest quartet in the Premier League and have been in tremendous form of late, notably Justin Sedgmen, who was unbeaten in five rides against the Witches.
He said: “To record my second paid maximum of the season was a great feeling. I had the kind of night you want to have every week where you think everything is going your way. I just hope I can keep up this form especially this weekend against Glasgow, they are big matches.”
Glasgow host the return tie at Ashfield on Sunday afternoon (3pm). Riss will be available for that meeting after Monarchs have won a tug of war with hisGerman club Landshut to ensure he will be available to ride. Landshut, have a meeting on the same day and had indicated they had priority on the teenager, but that is not the case.