Monarchs expect much tougher test against Panthers

Monarchs defeated Redcar in the KO Cup but Peterborough are a far stronger team. Picture: Ron MacNeill

Monarchs defeated Redcar in the KO Cup but Peterborough are a far stronger team. Picture: Ron MacNeill

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Edinburgh Monarchs have been riding on easy street over the last few weeks at Armadale, but the visit of Peterborough Panthers tonight could signal a much tougher Premier League test for the league pacesetters who face three matches in as many days this weekend.

The Panthers are third in the table, five points adrift of Monarchs, but are unable to track their complete team due to a further injury setback, highlighting the staggeringly high casualty list which has affected numerous sides this season.

Panthers lost their skipper Ulrich Ostergaard last Sunday with a broken hand when he tangled with Ipswich rider Nico Covatti in the Premier League Fours event at his own track. The event was abandoned following a horrifying accident involving Newcastle Diamonds star Lewis Kerr who crashed through the air fence at high speed and had to be air lifted to Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge.

Ostergaard is expected to be out of action for at least a month and joins team-mate 
Simon Lambert, who has a shoulder injury, on the Panthers’ sidelines. Their boss Ged Rathbone said: “This is just the latest in a long line of injuries which has hit us hard this season. We need to get through our two meetings against Edinburgh tonight and Sunday the best we can and then take stock of the situation.

“But we will battle on as we have always done. We are in a good league position and it’s still our aim to make the end of season play-offs.”

Monarchs, who are still without Sam Masters, enter the meeting buoyed by their progress to the semi-finals of the KO Cup after muzzling a depleted Redcar Bears side by 30 points on aggregate in their quarter-final second-leg tie at the Lothian Arena on Saturday.

Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess was pleased with the outcome but said: “You had to sympathise with Redcar who had put together a good team before they ran into injury problems. But I was happy that we got the job done without any mishaps.”

For Justin Sedgmen it was a very profitable evening as he piled up 16 points from his six starts, beaten only once by Bears bouncing Czech ace Matej Kus. “It was another big win for the team,” said Sedgmen. “And a big step towards another cup final. I was very happy with how things went, but just a little gutted that I didn’t finish the meeting undefeated. I couldn’t catch Matej, and that’s how it goes in speedway sometimes.”

One rider who is relishing the opportunity to shine against the Panthers is reserve Max Clegg. He picked up six points against Redcar and his confidence was further boosted this week when he scored five points guest riding for Wolverhampton in their 49-41 Elite League win over King’s Lynn Stars at Monmore Green, a circuit Clegg knows extremely well.

He said: “I love the place it was home to my National League team Cradley Heathens when we raced there and the track is always well prepared. I had a decent night and it always does you good when you win the heat two reserves race. That set me up for the rest of the meeting.

“I just got my head down and did the best I could in my other races. The Elite League is a tough place and picking up points isn’t easy. I’ve had two good meetings now in the Elite League recently. I also guested for Lakeside against Belle Vue and managed to pick up five points again. It’s good to score points in the top flight and I’m enjoying my speedway at the moment.

“I’m looking forward to the Peterborough match, it’s a busy weekend for Edinburgh as we seek to remain at the top of the league.

“Peterborough are carrying injuries, but they are still a decent side. We have had some comfortable victories lately at home, but we may have to fight harder for victory this time.”

Meanwhile, Somerset Rebels have reduced adult admission prices to £10 for Tuesday’s Sky Sports live match against Monarchs at the Oaktree Arena and promoter Debbie Hancock said: “We have had some great meetings against Edinburgh in the past and this could be another humdinger.”

Somerset are hoping to bounce back from last week’s shock home defeat by Plymouth Devils, the first competitive defeat for Rebels in front of their own fans since 2013.