Berwick Bandits are the only team to have beaten Edinburgh Monarchs at Armadale this season, their 46-44 League Cup success in April raising more than a few eyebrows.
The Border side return on Premier League duty tonight and former Monarch and Armadale track record holder Theo Pijper thinks another shock result is not beyond the realms of possibility.
Pijper scored ten points for Berwick on that previous visit, and nine points from another ex-blue and gold hero Matthew Wethers, helped undo their former team-mates who are desperate to avoid a second humbling.
Pijper admitted: “In some ways it was a surprise victory for us because Berwick have never had a particularly good record at Armadale and nobody really gave us a chance.
“But we have a few riders in our team who now go well round there. I remember we all got stuck in together that particular night and did not give up, and that attitude very much worked in our favour.”
The Bandits are fifth in the table and on course for a play-off position which is something Monarchs can only dream of at the moment. Pijper, in his second spell with the Bandits, feels this is the best beginning to a season they have made in quite a while.
“We have made a pretty good start so far, although it is still early days. I think we have done that because we have a good squad this year and we work well together both home and away.”
Berwick always seemed to suffer from a permanent malaise on the road but have shaken that monkey off their back as Pijper explained: “We recently won at Scunthorpe and drew at Rye House and that was a clear indication of how well we are performing as a unit. At home two weeks ago we had a huge 60-33 win over Ipswich Witches and we never expected to triumph by such a big margin, but it felt good all the same.
“All our boys were on fire and that is what you want.”
Pijper added that the Ipswich trouncing was down to alterations made to their big Shielfield Park circuit. “There have been a few changes made to the track and it now suits us a whole lot better – it’s fantastic.”
Berwick had to shuffle their pack recently following the departure of Dutchman Romano Hummel and he has been replaced by 25-year-old Austrian Daniel Gappmaier who scored five points on his debut against the Witches and six plus three bonus points in Berwick’s televised 59-31 victory against Workington Comets on Monday.
Pijper has high hopes for his new squad member. “I have ridden with him abroad and I believe there is a lot more to come from him. He has the potential otherwise he wouldn’t be over here.”
Concerning his own start to 2016 Pijper confessed it hasn’t been all plain sailing. “I started off really well but suffered a middle spell which wasn’t so good. I had a couple of bent bikes and two vans which were broken and all that kind of stuff. It was a bad time but I’ve got new bikes now and the vans are back on the road and that is good.”
Much of Berwick’s improvement, especially at home, is down to Aussie skipper Kevin Doolan who also certainly seems to like Armadale. “Kevin has been riding superbly,” said Pijper. “He is hitting a lot of big scores, and Thomas Jorgensen is also on fire as well. He got 13 points against the Comets which was great for us all and we are in a good place in the league right now.
“I certainly think a repeat victory over Edinburgh could be on the cards again, and with important league points at stake this time, it would be such a boost for everybody. But even if we don’t manage the victory a point would still be considered perfect too.”
With Edinburgh still in something of a scoring flux, Pijper says timing is often everything. He said: “It’s all down to what happens on the day. Edinburgh have a new boy in Mark Riss and as I know from experience it is pretty difficult for any newcomer to come in and ride Armadale well. The Edinburgh guys need to help each other out.”
Monarchs certainly cannot be lulled into any sort of complacency and need to strike back in the wake of their 51-39 derby loss at Glasgow Tigers in midweek because the Bandits pose a real threat.
Ryan Fisher was Monarchs’ top rider at Glasgow amassing 14 points and beaten just once by reserve Fernando Garcia. It’s the sort of front running sparkle the Californian needs to replicate this evening if Monarchs are to keep their play-off aspirations on track.