Edinburgh MONARCHS co-promoter John Campbell has urged some of his misfiring speedway team to step up a gear for tonight’s important Knockout Cup semi-final first leg at Ipswich Witches.
Monarchs have been carrying too many passengers lately, especially away from home, as was evidenced by their heavy 59-34 loss at Scunthorpe Scorpions on Sunday in their first Premier League play-off fixture.
By far the biggest concern centres on skipper Matthew Wethers whose scoring has fallen off a cliff, the racer only notching five points from his last three road trips, which is the form of a rookie not a veteran campaigner.
And while everybody acknowledges the contribution Wethers has made to Monarchs over the last decade, the Aussie cannot trade on past glories, especially as there exists a suspicion that, after ten years in harness at Armadale, he might be coming to the end of road.
Wethers was apparently unhappy with the Scunthorpe track and only picked up two points, but he was also disenchanted with his own circuit two weeks ago and this is bound to lead to the conclusion that he is using this as an excuse to masquerade his shortcomings at present.
He is less than expansive about his malaise, saying only: “I know I’m struggling and no one is more disappointed than me that I can’t get going, and I know I should be riding a lot better than I’m doing.”
Campbell is exasperated and said: “Matthew has been very, very disappointing, not just at Scunthorpe but also at Rye House and Newcastle. He is not in contention and it’s not as if he’s ever in front, he is always at the back.
“He is a great concern, and if we are turning out a rider who scores practically nothing away from home it’s a problem.”
Wethers’ team-mate and friend Andrew Tully is also on Campbell’s ‘must do better’ radar. Tully led his first race by a country mile at Scunthorpe only to slide off yards from the finishing line. But instead of putting it behind him Tully let it fester and did nothing of note for the remainder of the meeting.
Said Campbell: “I don’t know what was in Andrew’s head in that race, he only had to go for another 50 yards and he would have won it. His head was down after that, it was a stupid mistake to fall off unchallenged. When things go well he is fine, but the slightest problem and his head is bowed, and this has been the story of his season.
“Andrew is perfectly capable of winning his first race tonight and if he does then everything should be fine. Derek Sneddon also had a poor match at Scunthorpe – we need everybody to be scoring something.”
Although Ipswich have been occasionally indifferent at home this year Monarchs won’t find it easy and must find a cohesive scoring performance to give them a chance of winning the tie on aggregate when they host the deciding leg at Armadale on October 12.
But Campbell is aiming high, insisting: “I think we can win this evening which would make it certain that we’ll reach the final – and that is what we will be trying to do to do.”
Campbell’s optimism is based on the return of Jozsef Tabaka at reserve, the Hungarian top scoring in his comeback at Scunthorpe with 12 points, and Campbell added: “Jozsef will make such a difference to us, he had some outstanding rides against Scunthorpe and I think the Ipswich track will suit him even better. But our top riders need to grab a handful of race wins between them because the rest of the side are capable of filling in with second or third places to keep the scores close.”
If the worst happens and Ipswich lead coming to Armadale, Campbell is still confident.
“One good race can sometimes change the face of a whole match,” he said.