Ipswich Witches failed to cast a spell when they dropped down to the Premier League in 2011, but despite losing two key members of their squad to injury in March, they remain the pundits’ choice to win the championship this season.
Their arrival at Armadale tonight will present Edinburgh Monarchs with perhaps their toughest challenge at home as the team bids to open their league account following their defeat at Scunthorpe Scorpions in their opening fixture on Monday.
An intriguing battle could develop at reserve, which pits Monarchs’ fast-improving Australian star Micky Dyer against fellow countryman and Witches ace Rohan Tungate, who stacked up an impressive 15-point total in the Suffolk side’s ten-point win over Sheffield Tigers this week.
Dyer has been a revelation in his last three meetings, accruing almost 30 points, and the 21 year-old says he believes he can stamp his mark on the Premier League in the coming months.
Three weeks ago Dyer was in the doldrums and couldn’t buy a race win, but he revealed: “I’ve now put my head together, but I haven’t changed anything to my bike. Derek [Sneddon] helped by advising me to set up my clutch differently and the change enabled me to get out of the gate a bit better. Everything is now coming together.
“I haven’t had much confidence recently but in these last three matches I’ve managed to put together some good wins plus some paid second places, and this has helped build my confidence up again. I’m now starting to believe I can do it.”
Dyer was impressive at Scunthorpe, a track he had never seen before, and his ten-point contribution eclipsed his vastly more experienced team-mate, Andrew Tully, who only managed a single point.
Said Dyer: “I did pretty good down there. I just gave it a go. I adapted to the track very quickly and it suited my style. You had to ride the outside to have a chance and it was hard work, but the inside line wasn’t too bad either.”
Dyer revealed that he and Tungate know a lot about each other. “We are pretty good mates,” said Dyer. “He is a good bloke but hasn’t been riding speedway for that long.
“But he can ride any sort of bike. He is a natural, no matter what he does. I’ve ridden against Rohan plenty of times in Australia and he is a hard rider but fair, pretty quick and his gating is good.
“If he gets out of the start he could be a trump card for Ipswich. It’s definitely going to be a hard match for us and we all need to pull together and do our job.”
Monarchs are still without the injured Sneddon, but Charles Wright, who collided with him at Glasgow two weeks ago, returns to the saddle and is keen to rekindle his sharp form of early in the season.
He said: “I’m almost fully fit, my back has been sore and I damaged it more than I thought when I crashed. But I feel a lot better. The pile-up hasn’t dented my confidence but I took a week off to recover properly.
“Now I just want to start scoring points again, and keep out of trouble!”
Monarchs’ co-promoter John Campbell is alive to the threat Ipswich pose, but is resolute in predicting Monarchs will prevail. He said: “It will be a hard meeting because Ipswich are one of the best teams in the league, but we do very well at home and Craig Cook, Andrew Tully and Theo Pijper, are almost unbeatable. I don’t see that Ipswich have anyone in their side who will dominate our guys.”
Campbell added: “Ipswich are very solid, but whether they can provide enough race winners away from home, I’m not so sure.”
Monarchs are also in action at Workington Comets tomorrow night, which is another tough away gig.