Edinburgh Monarchs brewing up trouble for Witches

Only engine failure foiled Craig Cook in his bid for a maximum 15 points against Newcastle. Pic: Ron MacNeill
Only engine failure foiled Craig Cook in his bid for a maximum 15 points against Newcastle. Pic: Ron MacNeill
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John Campbell has a hunch that his Edinburgh Monarchs team are being underestimated ahead of the first leg of the Knockout Cup final at Ipswich Witches tonight, and that could be a big mistake.

Campbell revealed: “I read somewhere that we had run out of steam. An Ipswich supporter wrote that, while claiming that his own team are doing better now than they were when we got a draw in the league at their place earlier in the season. That is absolute nonsense of course.”

Campbell certainly has a point. Monarchs’ semi-final second-leg victory at Newcastle Diamonds on Sunday was their 18th consecutive match unbeaten and their 19th away win this year and that level of consistency makes the Capital outfit probable favourites to lift the trophy to add to the League Cup silverware they captured a week ago against Peterborough Panthers.

It has been Campbell’s personal mission to bring back the Knockout Cup to Armadale. It’s a competition in which the Monarchs have not excelled over recent years, 1999 being the last time it was won.

While Ipswich have only lost three times in the last three months, their unpredictability is often their Achilles heel.

Campbell said: “This is just another match for us and, of course, the 45-45 draw we managed a few months ago counts for nothing now. Ipswich is a very difficult place to go, but if we can hold them to a handful of points I’d be fairly confident we will finish the job at Armadale.”

The Monarchs chief cannot explain why the Knockout Cup has eluded his side so often, but insists: “At least we are now in a position to put that right. Often we have fallen by the wayside at the semi-final stage in the past, but we made no mistake this time,” he said.

Monarchs’ passage to the final was determined after they thrashed Newcastle 62-27 in the first match of the semi-final at home.

“Conditions at Armadale that night were not good, but our boys just got stuck in and attacked the track,” said Campbell. “I wondered about how many points we would need to take to Newcastle to go through, I thought ten would be enough. I did not believe we would have 35 points as a cushion.”

The momentum Monarchs have at the moment is priceless and shows no sign of abating. “It’s a week since we won the League Cup, but the atmosphere in the pits is fantastic,” he added.

“All they are thinking about is winning the KO Cup this week and the league title next week. Nobody is thinking about the treble, although everybody who was not involved with our side at Newcastle told us they hoped we would go on and win the other competitions at stake, and that was nice.”

Monarchs have the firepower to unsettle the Witches. Craig Cook was brilliant at Newcastle and faster than anybody else. Only an engine failure in his last ride cost him what should have been a guaranteed 15-point maximum.

“Campbell said: “ Sam [Masters] was also immense and they are probably the best two riders in the league and if they keep going like that we will be okay.”

The final will pit Monarchs star Stevie Worrall against twin brother Richie, who has been riding well for the Witches this season. Said Richie: “Everybody knows Edinburgh are on fire right now. We drew against them when we ourselves were not firing as a team.

“But I like riding at their place. It’s a smallish, technical track which I enjoy. But I don’t think Stevie will be offering any tips!”.

Max Fricke is tipping Monarchs to prevail on aggregate, saying: “If we can keep the scores tight, hopefully we can close things out at Armadale. We are all keen to do well and we know how much the KO cup means to the management, so we don’t want to let anyone down.”