REDCAR Bears have often had good-looking teams on paper who failed to deliver on track, but this season’s squad are more than fulfilling their promise as they sit in second place in the Premier League and look set to stay the course in the championship race.
They have already beaten Edinburgh Monarchs at Armadale, but the Capital outfit, who are on a roll themselves, think they can turn the tables in tonight’s big return clash on Teesside – and victory would catapault Monarchs to the top of the table, displacing Workington Comets as leaders.
However, Monarchs co-boss John Campbell is aware of the tough challenge, saying: “Redcar are without doubt doing very well and don’t look as if they are going to fizzle out, and I expect to see them in the play-offs at the end of the season.
“But we are going well ourselves, but it is going to be a hard match for us, although I think we can do well.”
Monarchs go into the fixture on the back of two valuable points gained in their hard-fought 45-45 draw at Rye House Rockets last weekend, though Campbell wasn’t entirely satisfied with the outcome, admitting: “I was disappointed that we did not win because everything was in our favour to do that. I thought we would provide the last five heat winners but it did not work out that way.
“It was very unfortunate that Jozsef (Tabaka) came down in heat 12. Had he stayed up he would have scored. He also didn’t score in the second last race and that was critical to the whole match. But it’s always good to pick up something away from home and we have managed that in every meeting so far this season.”
Tabaka, who scored a brilliant 15-point maximum against Glasgow Tigers at home on Friday, has now dropped to reserve under the new averages, swapping places with Max Fricke who moves into the main body of the team for a second spell.
“I don’t think Max will be fazed by the move,” said Campbell. “He will carry on just as he has been doing in recent matches. Jozsef is coming into some good form right now and has the advantage of being a faster gater than Max. He is also a potential winner in every race and can have seven rides if necessary, which is a big bonus to have.”
Tabaka said: “I think I’m riding pretty well right now and was so happy to get a maximum against Glasgow. I wasn’t so happy with how things worked out at Rye House, but I’m over it and ready to go again.”
The huge plus for Monarchs is that No. 1 Craig Cook is available for this evening plus tomorrow’s Armadale test against old foes Newcastle Diamonds, after the 26-year-old was dumped from Team GB’s World Cup side following his poor four-point debut at King’s Lynn on Monday.
Campbell doesn’t think his top star will suffer any reaction to his harsh rejection by Team GB manager Neil Middleditch, confessing: “I felt so sorry for Craig. It must have been a huge disappointment for him as he did not perform to the level he has reached in virtually every other match this season.
“All he has got to do now is to return to what he was doing before. Those of us who have seen him know he is so much better than what he showed at King’s Lynn.
“Doubtless a lot of people who were watching on television will have thought he is another failed Englishman, but he is not.
“I’m sure he will show his best tonight and will carry on as before. He has made it to the top and giving up is not part of his make-up.”
Campbell is also looking for a strong performance by newly returned second reserve Mitchell Davey.
The likeable Aussie says he just needs to get his confidence back following his six-week lay off, but Campbell observed: “Mitchell will realise that he needs to do his bit for the team because everyone else is doing so well.
“I think the performance of the team will bring out the best of Mitchell and if he can make a couple of decent starts, he’ll be fine. Funnily enough, his last really good meeting was at Redcar.”
The Bears are in rampant form and their victory at Berwick Bandits last Saturday was inspired by a 17-point haul from former Monarch Micky Dyer. They have only lost once in the league at home so far, when Workington muzzled them recently.