Edinburgh MONARCHS launch their Premier League Knockout Cup campaign against Rye House Rockets at Armadale tonight in what promises to be a tough first-round first-leg speedway tie for the hosts.
The Rockets have not been firing on all cylinders so far this season, but their squad is stuffed full of riders who seem to have a liking for the Lothian Arena. Monarchs’ middle order maestro Theo Pijper is clear about one thing.
“We need to hit them hard, and race as hard as we can,” he said. “That must be the main priority, and it needs to happen if we want to go through to the next round.”
Pijper’s contribution is seen as vital and so far this year, he has not let anyone down. He revealed: “Last year when I made my comeback into the Premier League with Glasgow Tigers, that definitely helped me get tuned up for this season. I’m very happy with how things are working out for me, but I still think I’m capable of adding a bit extra to my perfomances. I’m in the middle of the team and I’m scoring some good points.”
Monarchs will probably need a 15-20-point lead to give them sort of insurance for tomorrow’s second leg at Hoddesdon, but Pijper is optimistic that the Capital outfit can pull such an advantage out of the bag.
He said: “If we all do our jobs it is easily possible and I don’t think we have any fears about the second leg. Last year I had a good match at Rye House for Glasgow and scored pretty well so hopefully I can do the same again. Our boys can all ride the Rye House track and if we can all pop out of the gate, we will be all right.”
The Rockets have not yet ignited and two home defeats on the bounce against Somerset and Newcastle in the League Cup and Premier League respectively was a bit of a let-down for their supporters. However, a hefty 58-34 Cup victory over Leicester Lions last weekend gave them a much-needed lift.
Their top scorer was Dane Charlie Gjedde, who dropped just one point from five rides, and Monarchs will be wary about the threat he poses.
Last season Gjedde scored 16 points for the now-defunct Newport Wasps and by winning a last heat decider he steered the Wasps to a rather unlikely victory at Armadale.
Signed this season to replace Rockets captain Chris Neath, who was injured on the opening night, Gjedde acknowledged that the Rockets have stuttered a bit so far.
He said: “I had ignition problems prior to the Leicester match but managed to sort them out, but it was the team performance which mattered most. Regardless of individual displays, we are determined to have a shot at winning every match and every trophy.
“We will certainly be taking this approach into our meetings with Edinburgh this weekend.”
Rockets team manager John Sampford added: “It was certainly disappointing to lose against Somerset and Newcastle on successive weeks, but they are probably two of the strongest teams in the league. But there are more than two teams in the league and we are determined to bounce back and reach the play offs.
“Our priority for now is the Cup and to beat Edinburgh over the two legs, and we know that won’t be easy.”
Monarchs are back at full strength with Derek Sneddon passing himself fit to ride again following his crash at Glasgow last month.
Sneddon had three rides in the second half at Newcastle on Sunday, and said: “I went out with Mark Lemon and Stuart Robson and I was all over their back wheels, I’m feeling fine.”
Rye House may look to their reserves Jason Garrity and Luke Bowen to steal something at the tail-end and this could be a pivotal domain, and certainly their Monarchs counterparts Micky Dyer and Charles Wright will need to be on their game, especially the latter who has seen his early-season fireworks fizzle out.