Workington Comets don’t always live up to their pre-season promise, but with Edinburgh Monarchs also still trying to find their feet, tonight’s opening Premier League clash between the sides at Armadale could be a useful barometer in determining whether the Capital speedway side possess the credentials to lift the championship title for the third year in a row.
If Monarchs are to stand a chance, much will depend on the development of Jye Etheridge and Dan Bewley over the course of the next few months.
For 16-year-old Bewley, who arrived earlier this month as second reserve, the Premier League represents a huge stage for him and he intends to grab the opportunity with both hands.
Some inspiring words have been written about Bewley already and Belle Vue Aces’ decision to make him a full-blown club asset suggests they have high hopes for the Englishman.
Monarchs, too, realise his importance and know he could become a useful performer at the tail-end with Max Clegg.
Bewley impressed in near aquatic conditions at Berwick Bandits last weekend when Monarchs avenged their League Cup reverse six days previously, their 48-42 victory keeping them in the competition.
Bewley, who scored two points, was certainly not put off by the wet conditions, saying: “I liked the track and enjoyed myself.”
With a few matches under his belt, Bewley is growing in confidence. “It’s getting better and it’s been good so far,” he said. “It’s all about gaining experience really.”
A few people thought Bewley, who also rides for Belle Vue Colts in the National League, wasn’t quite ready to step up to senior level, but he insisted: “I knew before I signed for Edinburgh that the Premier League was going to be tough. It has always been a competitive division, but I feel better now after riding a few races for Edinburgh.”
Monarchs have made it clear that there is no pressure on Bewley whatsoever, but the rookie racer is ambitious and wants to give a good account of himself. “I don’t want to let the team down and see riders lose,” he said. “I just want to score points for Edinburgh.”
The cup loss to Berwick at home was an early wake-up call for Monarchs and Bewley said it came as a bit of a shock. “I did not know that much about the Berwick side,” he said. “Their win surprised a few of the team.
“But I think we surprised a few folk by beating Berwick on Saturday. It was good we bounced back.”
The league season begins in earnest now for Monarchs and Bewley is aware that Workiington have the riders to cause Monarchs problems. “I think it will be a close match,” he added. “And we really need to get our league programme off to a strong start to make the play-offs.”
Etheridge, meanwhile, is desperately seeking some sunshine and drier track conditions. The Aussie ace said: “Things are getting a bit better for me and I’m just trying to sort out my bikes. I’m not having the best of luck with them. I blew an engine up and had ignition problems with another.
“I’m struggling a little because of the bikes. They have made it a little hard for me so far, especially in getting out of the starts, but I think I have sorted this out.”
Etheridge toiled at Berwick despite revealing: “I had watched a meeting there before, but riding the track was very different. I haven’t had a dry meeting yet, it’s been all slosh!”
In a bid to take some of the strain off Etheridge, Monarchs bosses switched him to No.4, with Erik Riss assuming the more difficult No.2 position with in-form skipper Sam Masters.
Etheridge said: “I had never seen the Armadale track before, so to go out in the opening heat was a bit different for me. It would have been cool to ride with Sam all year, but it wasn’t to be.
“Switching positions should help me a little and I feel I can get some points tonight.
“Workington will be hard opponents, but I think if we all score and ride to our capabilities, we should win.”
Workington posted a good League Cup victory over Newcastle Diamonds last weekend and with former Monarch Claus Vissing – who picked up 12 points – in their ranks, the Cumbrian visitors may just fancy their chances of springing a shock.The return fixture is at Derwent Park on Saturday (7pm).