EDINBURGH MONARCHS host the form team in the Premier League tonight when they welcome table-topping Newcastle Diamonds to Armadale.
The Tynesiders are eight points clear of their nearest rivals and are already 18 points clear of Monarchs, who languish in bottom spot.
It’s early days in the championship race but Monarchs’ failure to pick up anything on their road trips so far means it is absolutely imperative that they keep a clean sheet at home.
But even Monarchs co-promoter John Campbell concedes that the Diamonds will provide the Capital speedway side with their sternest examination to date. He said: “Newcastle are the best team in the league and it will be a stern test for us. They have a very strong reserve in Ritchie Worrall and that is a huge benefit to any team.
“He is doing well at Newcastle and is generally doing very well everywhere away from home. The prospect of him taking seven rides tonight shores up any deficiencies elsewhere in Newcastle’s team.”
Despite Newcastle’s current lofty position, Campbell points out: “The championship does not require you to win every away match at this time of the year. A handful of away points and a good home record will take you through to the end-of- season play-offs.”
At the start of the season a lot of pundits tipped Ipswich Witches as possible title favourites, however Campbel believes Newcastle pose a bigger danger to Monarchs’ silverware aspirations, saying: “I don’t see Ipswich as a threat at all, but Newcastle have a good record at Armadale. And even though their No.1 Stuart Robson and Mark Lemon have not done especially well away from home, if they strike form it is going to be a strong test for us.”
Monarchs, who have not ridden a home match for three weeks, are striving to bounce back from a 54-41 reverse at Redcar Bears just over a week ago, a contest that on paper seemed well within their grasp to win.
“I think we would have won the meeting had it taken place a fortnight earlier instead of being rained off,” said Campbell. “Redcar were back at full strength last week and they are a solid side round their own track. We had a chance of taking a point but Matthew (Wethers) lost a 5-1 against him in heat 14. We really need Matthew to win these races but he was never in contention to do that. You just have to shrug your shoulders and move on.”
Wethers’ partnership with Dutchman Theo Pijper was not considered a strong pairing at Redcar but, according to director Mike Hunter, there are no plans to split them up.
Hunter said: “Even though Theo and Matthew were poor, they are both very good at home and no changes are envisaged, especially as Derek (Sneddon) is good at No 2 and Craig (Cook) and Andrew (Tully) are doing decent jobs at 1 and 5.
“But we need everybody to step up if we are to beat Newcastle this evening.”
Without question, Cook is eclipsing his teammates right now and he also turned in another strong display for his Elite League club Belle Vue Aces at Wolverhampton on Monday, picking up eight points and a bonus.
Campbell added: “Craig is brilliant and is not put off by anything this season and that’s the big difference from last year. A bad first race would have seen his head go down before and he would complain about the track and everything else.
“Now if he has a bad race he puts it behind him and gets on with it.”
Newcastle look set to win the reserve battle and this could hold the key to the outcome of the whole match. The Diamonds thumped Leicester Lions at the weekend, avenging a surprising loss at Leicester earlier in the season.
Ominously Ritchie Worrall scored a paid maximum at reserve and his twin brother Steve is also moving in the right direction.
Diamonds team manager George English said: “Ritchie’s form is sky-rocketing at the moment and it’s a great help to have that kind of scoring power at reserve.
“But when our main lads also hit form then the opposition need to watch out.”
Monarchs’ tail-end duo of Micky Dyer and Charles Wright need to stifle the Worrall siblings to bring about a home win but it won’t be child’s play.
Meanwhile, Monarchs, who visit Rye House Rockets on league business tomorrow night, have announced dates for their washed-out fixtures against Ipswich and Berwick. Ipswich will return on September 7 and Berwick’s Cock O’ the North clash on July 13 is now a league match.
The postponement against Leicester is still to be arranged.