THEO PIJPER has been calling the tune for Edinburgh Monarchs speedway team so far and the Dutch second-string star today predicted that more prizes could be on the horizon following their Spring Trophy success against Glasgow Tigers last week.
Pijper, who aims to help Monarchs to their first League Cup win of the Northern Section against Newcastle Diamonds at Armadale tonight, has scored consistently since the start of the season and his ten-point haul against the Tigers made him the second-top performer behind team-mate Craig Cook, who bagged 14.
Yet Pijper’s strong start to the 2012 campaign masks the fact that the 32-year-old ace still isn’t fully fit following a winter bout of pneumonia – and sometimes it shows.
He said: “My scoring has been good but perhaps it’s been a bit too much to expect considering how ill I’ve been. I’m just trying to take things easy and do my best for the team.
“I feel okay, and when I feel okay I race good, but I struggled at Berwick last weekend and I need to be more upper grade. I haven’t really set myself any goals for this season although everybody wants to increase their average and it would be okay if I did that.”
Monarchs’ transformation in wiping out a hefty 14-point deficit against the Tigers was a performance they badly needed and Pijper revealed: “It gave us all a big lift. Our team this year is a young one and we are all capable of doing better than we have been doing.
“I think within a couple of weeks we will all click together and I think there will be a lot of prizes we can win.”
It has been Monarchs’ lesser lights who have hogged the limelight to a certain degree as No. 1 Andrew Tully and skipper Matthew Wethers endeavour to find a seam of consistency and Pijper has sympathy for Tully saying: “It is hard for Andrew because he has been put in at No. 1 and that’s very difficult, especially away from home, but at home he should be fine.
“If one of our guys doesn’t do well then the next guy needs to pick it up, that’s how you win matches.
“It’s still very early, but our top guns are starting to go well now, but we need to step things up away from home, not just our top guys, but all of us.”
Pijper is slightly concerned that Monarchs, and this is a trait which has haunted them in the past, are not taking a tight enough gip of proceedings in the first half and he said: “We need to be hitting teams harder at the start of meetings than at the end because there are a couple of teams in the league who look very strong on paper and could cause us trouble.
“So I plan to speak to the guys in the dressing room tonight and say we must hit Newcastle hard from the start, that is definitely the way to go.
“Newcastle are a decent team and their two reserves appear to be doing really well.”
Monarchs reserve Charles Wright is expected to ride despite taking two hard knocks against Glasgow and at Berwick, a meeting which saw a spate of fallers in the Monarchs ranks on a track far from perfect. But Pijper observed: “I think a couple of our team tried too hard at Berwick and that’s when you fall off your bike, next time we need to realise it’s sometimes better to have a second place than a first.”
Newcastle will arrive in good spirit after their unlikely 46-44 win over an in-form Workington Comets squad at Brough Park on Sunday.
The Comets, who had won at Sheffield three days earlier, led by eight points with just three heats to go but a last race 5-1 from Diamonds duo Mark Lemon and Stuart Robson robbed the visitors of glory.
Diamonds gaffer George English was full of praise for his side’s efforts but said: “We did have a few weaknesses but our feverish and determined work in the pits to get the best from everybody’s bikes paid off. Stuart had a nightmare meeting mechanically, and had to change his bike after every ride.”
Monarchs travel to face Workington on Saturday night and, worryingly, former Monarch Kyle Howarth is in splendid form for the Cumbrian outfit, having scored 11 and 13 respectively at Sheffield and Newcastle.