Edinburgh Monarchs currently lie in second spot in the Premier League and are targeting ten points from their next three speedway fixtures as they bid to overhaul their old adversaries Somerset Rebels at the top of the championship table.
Although boss John Campbell always points out that it’s where you sit come September that really counts with a top-six finish your passport to the play-off programme, Monarchs are keen to make their presence felt.
They entertain bottom club Redcar Bears at Armadale tonight which, on paper, should be a routine win for the capital outfit, but bearing in mind the seismic shock Glasgow Tigers caused seven days ago at the Lothian Arena, nobody in the Monarchs camp will be wagering major money on the result.
Even captain Craig Cook, who came so close to being crowned British Champion at Wolverhampton on Monday, is urging caution. He said: “As we witnessed last weekend speedway is not a predictable sport. And we have to give due respect to all our opponents, so we will give Redcar our due attention.”
Cook reflected on his second successive runners-up spot in the British Final behind three time winner Tai Woffinden despite leading the Grand Final by miles before it was stopped when Jason Garrity slid off.
In the rerun Woffinden made no mistake. “I couldn’t believe my luck,” said Cook, “but that’s how it goes sometimes – you win some, and you lose some. But to be honest the honour of riding in the British Grand Prix is a fantastic consolation prize.
“And if I ride as I did on Monday, who is to say I can’t max out in every meeting. My time will come because I have worked too hard for it not to.”
Monarchs will not want to surrender any more dropped home points, but the resilience and fighting spirit they exuded in taming the Tigers in their own den at Ashfield to counter their Lothian Arena loss 48 hours earlier was a stark reminder that they often find inner strength when faced with adversity.
Aussie star Justin Sedgmen was especially pleased to score 11 points at Tigers after admitting it hasn’t been his favourite circuit in recent times. “I wanted to make up for our defeat by Glasgow at home,” he said. “It was a big surprise – and really quite a bad day at the office – but the track was the slickest I’ve ever known it at Armadale.
“However, that was no excuse. Glasgow were very fast out of the gate, which made it difficult to pass them. Sunday, by contrast, was a great team effort and all the boys played their part, which made up for last Friday.
“To get double figures was great because things haven’t gone my way on previous trips. But everything was perfect this time and showed I can win races at Ashfield.”
Sedgmen added: “There won’t be many teams who go to Glasgow and come away with four points. No-one expected us to come away with anything. And I’m sure we will win against Redcar. This Monarchs team has a winning mentality and also great character to go to Glasgow and win.”
Sedgmen reserved special praise for Cook, whose flawless 15-point maximum was the cornerstone of their victory. “Craig was unbelievable and made the Glasgow riders look as if they were standing still,” he said. “He was fantastic.”
Fellow countryman Sam Masters is acutely aware that he hasn’t stamped his authority on the opening race for a month, but revealed he is striving to overcome machine gremlins.
“I struggled with my scoring again at Glasgow and I’m working hard to sort out the problems with my bikes because our performance at home last week simply wasn’t good enough,” said Masters.
“We needed something really special at Glasgow and produced it. And we now need to keep that form going at Armadale to get ourselves back on course.”
Redcar, who are expected to unveil a new signing in time for Monarchs’ return visit to Teesside next Thursday, have struggled to be competitive this season and are already out of the League Cup and lost their last home fixture against Berwick Bandits. They will be strengthened with the inclusion of Stevie Worrall as a guest this evening.
Meanwhile, Monarchs’ Legends Night to celebrate the 500th meeting at Armadale which coincides with the visit of Plymouth Devils on June 26, is facing a shortage of racing legends.
A club spokesman said: “Although the list of riders is expanding all the time and we will make a full announcement shortly, we have been unable to contact many of our former riders.
“Therefore we want to extend an open invitation to any rider who has raced for the club during the Armadale era to get in touch and confirm they will be able to join us next Friday.”
One legend who definitely will be there is Ryan Fisher – he rides for Plymouth!