Monarchs plan to put down a marker against Witches

Sam Masters enjoyed his outing in Poland. Pic: Ron MacNeill
Sam Masters enjoyed his outing in Poland. Pic: Ron MacNeill
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Having been drawn against Ipswich Witches in the forthcoming League Cup speedway semi-final, Edinburgh Monarchs are viewing tonight’s Premier League meeting against the East Anglians as a dress rehearsal for that tie and will be keen to cast a scoring spell over their rivals.

Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess said: “This evening will give us an idea of what we are up against. We could have been paired against Sheffield – they are 200 miles nearer – but that’s just the luck of the draw.”

Monarchs are unbeaten in the championship campaign so far and nine points ahead of the Witches, who rose to seventh place in the table following their 65-25 demolition of Redcar Bears last weekend. However, co-promoter Chris Louis warned his side that there are far more tougher rivals who lie in wait. He said: “It was a much-improved performance from our side and all the team chipped in with something to achieve our big win. And special mention must be made of Gino Manzares, who has had a disappointing start to the season because of injury, but rode very well against the Bears.

“But we know how difficult it will be against Edinburgh, as it always is.”

Monarchs’ young German Erik Riss drops down to reserve under the new averages, swapping places with Rob Branford who moves up the pecking order. Harkess added: “I’m not that disappointed that Erik will be riding at reserve and hopefully he’ll do well from that position. He just needs to gate a bit more consistently.”

Meanwhile, for Monarchs’ No.1 Sam Masters, who has done more globetrotting than Alan Whicker lately, the desire to put four good starts together after winning just a brace of races against Workington Comets last Friday is seen as important for the Aussie, whose double figure consistency round the Lothian Arena has slackened off a bit. “I still finished with ten points against them,” he said. “I had a few machine problems early in the match, but I was very happy to win my final two outings.”

Masters, who is doubling-up with Leicester Lions in the Elite League, also put pen to paper for Polish outfit Motor Lublin and picked up nine points on his debut which helped them to victory against Rawicz on Sunday.

Masters admitted to feeling very nervous before the meeting, saying: “But a win in my opening ride helped settle me down a little. All the Polish leagues are brutal and if you cannot perform then you are pretty much history, so I knew I had to have a good meeting.

“It’s great to win races in front of the Polish supporters who love their speedway – it’s pretty special. Polish speedway is booming at the minute and Lublin have been very welcoming to me and I want to do a good job for them.”

Masters’ fellow countryman Justin Sedgmen, who announced a major sponsorship deal with premium Aussie wine company Zilzie Wines this week, feels it’s important that the Capital side keep their current unbeaten run going. But Sedgmen revealed he wasn’t entirely happy with his performance against the Comets despite the fact he amassed a paid 13-point haul.

“It was a good night both for myself and the team,” said Sedgmen. “Everyone contributed, but I should have done better in heat 14 after I lost to Matthew Wethers. I have made that race my own since moving to No.4 in the side. However, I have to be pleased with my performance overall.”

He added: “Workington had been expected to push us harder than they did and we won comfortably in the end. And it kept up our current momentum and all the boys are on it right now.”

One of the most interesting individual battles could occur between Witches’ No.1 Danny King and Monarchs ace Craig Cook, who will square up to each other in the British Final at Wolverhampton later this month with the highest placed rider, with the exception of Grand Prix regulars Chris Harris and Tai Woffinden, earning a wild card to the British Grand Prix at Cardiff in July.

Cook has been a tad erratic at home on occasions this season, falling off in his fourth ride last week, and would like nothing better to outshine King and deny the Witches a third away win on the bounce.

• BELLE VUE ACES have confirmed they are in the process of purchasing Max Fricke’s contract from Edinburgh.

The Aussie hotshot joined the Elite League outfit on loan during the winter with the Aces offered the option to buy the rider outright.

Aces promoter George Carswell said: “Edinburgh have always been aware that, if the opportunity arose, we’d be interested in doing a deal and when Max chose to ride in the Elite League this season it was a natural route for us to pursue.”