Edinburgh Monarchs travel to Redcar Bears tonight for the first leg of their KO Cup quarter-final tie hoping to avoid a repeat of the shock defeat they suffered in the Premier League on Teesside last month when the Bears pulled off an astonishing 47-43 win after being crushed 65-28 at Armadale the week before.
Monarchs co-promoter John Campbell still recoils at that loss and won’t want to slip on a possible banana skin for a second time.
“At the time I was confident we would pick up four league points and the meeting was a huge disappointment to us all,” said Campbell. “It was the wettest track we had experienced all season, but as all good professionals do we just got on with it without complaint.
“We were six points up after heat seven, having produced six of the first seven race winners, and it seemed as if we were cruising, but we then only provided three of the final eight race winners and eventually hung on for a single match point.
“I could point to a number of problems, but perhaps the biggest one was Sam (Masters) losing his steel shoe at the start of heat 13. At that point both he and Craig (Cook) were unbeaten, but Sam got in Craig’s way on the second bend and the 5-1 advantage I had hoped we would have secured, we didn’t get.”
Redcar are on something of a roll at the moment and pulled off their fourth home win in a row last week by defeating neighbours Newcastle Diamonds and have now hauled themselves off the bottom of the Premier League table, although Monarchs themselves go into the tie on something of a high in the wake of their surprisingly easy 54-38 success at Berwick Bandits last Saturday, placing them three points ahead of Peterborough Panthers at the top of the league.
Monarchs travel to the Media Prima Arena boosted by the return of reserve rider Robert Branford, who is fit after missing six weeks with a shoulder injury. Branford powered his way to a 15-point maximum during an impressive display for his National League team Rye House Raiders against Mildenhall last weekend and says he feels ready to shine again for the Monarchs.
“I had no problems and did not even think about my shoulder during the meeting – I’ll definitely be back for Monarchs tonight,” Branford said. “It’s been tough being out of action for so long, but to score a maximum for Rye House was a great way of lifting my confidence again and I just hope I can score a few points against Redcar. It’s a big match for us.”
Meanwhile, Monarchs’ crocked No.1 rider Sam Masters will visit hospital tomorrow to have his hand injury re-assessed, but will definitely miss Monarchs home clash against Rye House at Armadale on the same night and also their long trip to Plymouth Devils on Saturday.
• Monarchs have been handed a tough draw for the Premier League National Fours competition at Peterborough early next month.
The Capital quartet of Cook, Kevin Wolbert, Justin Sedgmen and Erik Riss are in Group A and will face host club Peterborough, Workington, and Ipswich. Monarchs are three-time winners of the event, their last triumph coming in 2013.