Monarchs steeled for tough test on vast Owlerton track

Max Fricke is looking forward to Monarchs' trip to Sheffield. Picture: RON MacNEILL

Max Fricke is looking forward to Monarchs' trip to Sheffield. Picture: RON MacNEILL

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Edinburgh MONARCHS have picked up something from all their Premier League away fixtures so far this season – 16 points in all – and will want to keep that sequence going when they visit Sheffield Tigers at Owlerton Stadium tonight.

Monarchs remain well placed to cement their spot in the end-of-season play-offs. The real battle now being fought among the tightly-grouped top six teams is to claim the highly-prized first and second positions which guarantee choice of opponents when two mini-groups of three are formed for the championship run-in in September.

Monarchs remain well placed to cement their spot in the end-of-season play-offs. The real battle now being fought among the tightly-grouped top six teams is to claim the highly-prized first and second positions which guarantee choice of opponents when two mini-groups of three are formed for the championship run-in in September.

For Monarchs’ young Australian star Max Fricke, the trip to the Steel City could be something of a stiff test for him as he admitted he is unaccustomed to the vastness of the Sheffield track.

He said: “It will be the first time I have competitively raced there, although I did some second-half laps last season. It is a big circuit with lots of dirt on it and you need a fast bike to get round.

“It will involve a totally different machine set-up to the one I use for Armadale every week, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. It will be new to me and it’s going to be interesting to see how I go.”

Monarchs are aiming for a quick double over the Tigers after taming them 45-32 at the Lothian Arena on Friday, a match cut short with three races left following the crash involving Claus Vissing and Tigers’ young guest reserve Robert Branford.

But the Tigers put up some decent resistance which belies their second-bottom status in the league. Their recent comeback at home to defeat highly fancied Newcastle Diamonds is a warning that they may not be the pushovers some people believe.

“I think Sheffield are a good team round their own track,” said Fricke. “But if we all ride to our form, I think we can come away with a point or more. Six of us all won races at Glasgow on Sunday and that’s something we would like to repeat.”

Fricke confessed he did not have the best of days at Glasgow after he was disqualified under the two-minute rule in a controversial heat five which took four attempts to run.

“I don’t know where the referee was looking, but he had his own opinion and I have mine. My last two rides were decent but I lost my steel shoe in my final outing, so overall the match wasn’t that great for me. “When Monarchs return from Sheffield they face Somerset Rebels on Friday, which is probably their toughest home fixture yet. The Rebels are coming up the rails fast and with Monarchs hardly dominant in front of their own fans of late, it’s no wonder there is a great degree of trepidation over this clash.

Fricke says: “You just have to look at Somerset’s line-up to realise what a strong side they have got and it would be great if we can get the win, but we need to be on our A-game to have a chance.”