Edinburgh Monarchs are hoping to avoid being thrown into the Lions’ den when they tackle highly fancied Leicester Lions in tonight’s potentially dangerous Knockout Cup first-round speedway tie at Armadale Stadium.
And Monarchs chief Alex Harkess conceded the match has perhaps come a bit too soon for his new-look squad, saying: “We have new riders in our team and, as each week passes, I’m sure they will get better. It would be nice to have everybody firing on all cylinders.
“Normally the first round of the KO Cup takes place at the end of May, ideally I would have preferred had they taken place a month from now.
“I think we are capable of going through, and also believe we can win down at Leicester in the second leg tomorrow night.”
While Harkess may have some trepidation over Monarchs’ chances, skipper Derek Sneddon, pictured, is optimistic about going through to the quarter-finals to meet either Plymouth Devils or Newcastle Diamonds.
Said Sneddon: “Leicester will not be easy opponents and they do look good on paper, but we did fantastically well at their place in the league last season, we only lost by a point and really should have won.
“If we carry on the home form we showed against Glasgow last week, we should take a decent lead into the second leg, I think we can do it.”
The one positive part of Monarchs’ armoury so far, has been the fine form of Hungarian reserve Jozsef Tabaka who has notched up 20 points in his first two meetings for Monarchs. And with Tabaka able to take seven rides if need be, he may well turn out to be a talismanic tail-ender if some of his teammates have an off-night.
He said: “I’m very pleased with how well the season has started. I did a lot of work to my bikes over the winter and this seems to have helped me.
“I hope I can keep this good form going, and I have no fears of moving into the team proper if the chance arises. Sometimes I don’t even know who I’m racing against – I just go out to win.”
Harkess added: “The way Jozsef has started is hugely encouraging for the whole team and knowing he can take extra rides could be a big advantage for us over both legs.”
Leicester retained six of last year’s squad but were rocked by an injury to Adam Roynon last month and moved quickly to ask former Monarch Magnus Karlsson to rejoin them as his replacement.
Leicester are some people’s tip to lift the championship and they issued a statement of intent by eliminating the defending title holders, Scunthorpe Scorpions, from their League Cup qualifying section at the weekend.
They boast a strong top four, and although less experienced than skipper Kauko Nieminen, Karlsson and Kevin Doolan, the man to watch could be 19-year-old Lasse Bjerre, who is extremely pacey and has only been beaten once in two home meetings.
Monarchs face a mad dash up from Leicester on Saturday night before travelling through to Ashfield on Sunday afternoon to face Glasgow Tigers, which opens a truncated League Cup campaign.
And having thrashed Tigers 59-31 in the Spring Trophy seven days ago, Monarchs may well fancy their chances at Saracen Park. Glasgow began their League Cup programme with a 46-43 win against Berwick Bandits last Sunday having been heavily beaten by them 24 hours earlier at Shielfield Park.