Edinburgh Monarchs will not be revving down just because they have qualified for the championship speedway play-offs, insisted Theo Pijper today.
The vastly experienced rider, who lines up against shock troops Leicester Lions at Armadale tonight, says Monarchs go out on track to win every Premier League fixture and securing three points against the Midlanders, who won this fixture a year ago, remains a top priority.
“I certainly don’t think we have to worry about motivation or anything like that,” said Pijper. “Matches have to be won it’s as simple as that and there is nothing easy about winning meetings or races. If you go out thinking it will be easy, that’s when you end up losing.”
Monarchs could conceivably meet Leicester in one of the play-off mini groups which will be drawn on Sunday so this could be a handy dress rehearsal for such an eventuality as the team aim for a possible league and cup double.
Reaching the play-offs has handed Monarchs a welcome financial boost and Pijper doesn’t have a monopoly on thinking a fourth title crown in ten years is a distinct possibility especially as injured No. 1 Craig Cook and reserve Jozsef Tabaka are expected back in the saddle at the end of the month – just in time for the start of the race-off programme.
Said Pijper: “I definitely think we have a chance of winning the title because we will have a full team back soon and if Craig and Jozsef pick up where they left off five weeks ago no-one will want to meet us, certainly not round Armadale.
“We have struggled a little at reserve without Jozsef, he scored a maximum for us before he injured his hand and hopefully he’ll do the same when he returns.”
Monarchs have displayed a great deal of resilience in refusing to let their injury situation divert them from their goal, yet Pijper conceded: “Even before the injuries I thought we struggled at the start of the season, but before long everybody had picked up their game and we all clicked together and that’s why things have now worked out for us and why we have also picked up some very useful points, both home and away.
“The turning point I think, came when we collected five points on the road in the same week; we got stronger mentally and have never really looked back since.”
The only setback occurred when Monarchs succumbed to Scunthorpe Scorpions at home, however it did not turn out to be as catastrophic a reverse as some imagined as the team redressed the loss by winning at Berwick Bandits just 24 hours later.
Added Pijper: “That was an amazing result. We knew we owed it to the fans to bounce back after getting beaten by Scunthorpe. But they were the better side on the night, they attacked our track, we did not. I also crashed which didn’t help.
“But I got my act together at Berwick and got a win in my last heat, and our guest James Grieves did a tremendous job in covering for Craig.”
Pijper knows all about winner’s medals after picking up gold when Monarchs won their first league title in 2003 and then last season he was on the podium again when Glasgow Tigers swept to glory. Asked how he compares his scoring performance this season with 2011, Pijper replied: “I’m very happy with the way I have been riding but there is always room for improvement and to go that little bit better, and there are still a few weeks of the season left for me to get myself a decent average.”
It’s often overlooked that the 32-year-old Dutchman was a former skipper and past track record holder at Armadale and he has shown to a number of high-profile opponents already this year that he has lost none of that speed or craftiness. And certainly his 12-point haul at Newcastle Diamonds on Sunday reminded everybody of his liking for the chequered flag.
Monarchs wrap up their regular league campaign with a visit to Rye House Rockets on Saturday and Pijper added: “I know the team will be thinking we have a chance down there and could even pick up three points, but we must remain sharp against Leicester first of all.
“We must get out of the gate because Leicester are fast from the tapes. When we lost against Scunthorpe it was down to our gating.”
Aaron Summers and Byron Bekker guest for Monarchs tonight while Kevin Doolan and Max Dilger step in at Rye House.