The report card on just how well or bad Edinburgh Monarchs have done over the eight months of their 2012 speedway campaign may well hinge on what they achieve this weekend.
Monarchs’ Premier League play-off hopes and the chance of a fourth championship crown appear to be wafer-thin after they dropped a costly home point against group favourites, Scunthorpe Scorpions, seven days ago.
Only a win at Workington Comets tomorrow night will keep them in the running, otherwise their return match against the Englishmen on October 19 will become academic.
Monarchs’ main focus must be on second prize, namely the Knockout Cup, but to reach the final they need to overhaul a 20-point deficit against Ipswich Witches in tonight’s crunch semi-final second leg tie at Armadale.
And while co-promoter John Campbell has called for more commitment from his team, the same applies to their supporters. Crowds have consistently fallen below the break-even mark over the last few weeks and this has placed a question mark over the club’s future for 2013. Monarchs’ financial plight is precarious and if fans won’t turn out for a cup semi-final, then perhaps they don’t deserve to see Monarchs survive.
Skipper Matthew Wethers is hoping his team get the backing they deserve and insists the task of overhauling the Witches is far from impossible. He says: “It is definitely achievable and we have a real chance of making the final.
“We all just need to get our form going. It seems week after week somebody has an off night, but if we can get everybody scoring at the same time, we’ll be unbeatable. Losing by 20 in the first leg was not what we had bargained for, but with no double-point tactical rides allowed in the Cup, Ipswich won’t be able to use any if they fall behind, and that could be important.”
Monarchs must score 56 points, a total they have managed on nine occasions at home this season, but it’s also clear they cannot afford anything less than 100 per cent effort, and if they harbour any misgivings about the track surface, which has been the case recently, they must put them to the back of their minds and simply get on with the job they are paid to do. They can’t allow themselves to be psyched out by the opposition over this. Perhaps the one rider who will be pivotal to Monarchs’ chances of glory is Andrew Tully, who did not win a race against Scunthorpe and rightly called his own performance “awful”.
He needs to show his mental strength and genuine track ability to prove to his critics that he has not stagnated this season. Monarchs will be boosted by the return of No 1 Craig Cook, whose first comeback from injury was cut short when he hurt his ribs after tumbling off against Jason Bunyan at Scunthorpe’s Eddie Wright Raceway. But Cook says: “I had a try-out at the Northside Training track last weekend and I feel fine and ready to go. I was so gutted that my first meeting back for Monarchs lasted just one race, this is such a huge meeting for the team and our fans and we cannot let anybody down, we must pull back those 20 points and need to hit Ipswich hard right from the start.”
Ipswich were fancied for honours this year but have had a mixed campaign in which they have lost three times at home. However when they are on song they are a potent brew, which they proved by beating Berwick Bandits by 20 points away from home in the quarter finals to set up their showdown against Monarchs. Although they don’t have a rider with an average of over seven, the Witches are a solid team and strong reserve Matt Tresarrieu will test the mettle of his Monarchs counterparts, Jozsef Tabaka and guest stand-in James Sarjeant.
Witches team manager Pete Simmons said: “We only beat Monarchs by seven points in the league at Foxhall Heath and I told my team we would need to double that margin in the cup to give us a good cushion. We got it, and a bit more, but we know how strong Monarchs can be round their own place, so we are taking nothing for granted.”