Nothing is ever certain in speedway. But Edinburgh Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess believes it would be a major surprise if his side don’t progress to the Premier League Knockout Cup semi-finals tomorrow night.
The Capital outfit tackle Redcar Bears at Armadale (7.00pm) in the second leg of their quarter-final clash, chasing just a slender two-point deficit from the first leg on Teesside.
And, while Monarchs steamrollered the Bears 65-28 in the league at the Lothian Arena recently, Harkess insisted: “We will certainly be taking nothing for granted because we still have a job to do. Two points down should not be a problem for us. We go into the meeting as favourites and we must get off to a good start because we don’t want to leave it late into the match to overturn our arrears.”
Monarchs are also keen to impress and bounce back from a surprising 48-42 league reverse at Plymouth Devils last weekend, a result which did not exactly sit well with Monarchs co-promoter John Campbell.
Monarchs did salvage a point thanks to a last-heat 5-1 from guest Brady Kurtz and skipper Craig Cook. Harkess said: “We always go everywhere looking to win and don’t like leaving empty handed with nothing to show for our efforts. And the point we got was perhaps a fortunate one.”
Asked if there were any mitigating circumstances to help assuage their disappointment, Harkess replied: “Plymouth is a circuit completely different to what we are normally used to and we only visit the place once a year. But apart from Erik (Riss), the Plymouth track wasn’t new to anybody else in our team.”
Plymouth reserve Sam Simota was the nemesis of Monarchs tail-end duo Rob Branford and Max Clegg. They were easily eclipsed by the home rider, who piled up 13 points, which encompassed a quartet of race wins.
“Sam swung the match for Plymouth,” said Harkess. “And if you have a reserve who can score double figures that gives any team a head start. It just didn’t happen for us on the night and we must move on.”
Harkess added that there are no questions marks hanging over Clegg and Branford, pointing out: “I think they are coming on in leaps and bounds and they outscored Redcar’s reserves in the first tie. We are happy with them.”
Monarchs’ Aussie star Sam Masters remains sidelined with a hand injury and rider replacement will operate for him as Cook, under the latest set of averages, returns to the No 1 position.
“I don’t think Sam was that happy riding at No 10,” said Harkess. “Craig has always seen himself in that role, but didn’t complain when he dropped down to No 5. And returning to his former position, he will take it in his stride, and we signed him as a No 1.
“Craig has certainly been scoring lots of points for us in the Premier League and seems to be back to his consistent best. He was brilliant at Plymouth and also broke their track record.
“And if he can kick off by winning the opening heat that can often act as a real springboard to the rest of the team.”
Redcar bring in Glasgow Tigers captain Aaron Summers to replace their top star Lasse Bjerre, who is out for the season after dislocating his hip in a crash in Redcar’s 37-35 first-leg win which also saw team-mate Jan Graversen come to grief.
Bears team manager Jitendra Duffill, who was due to unveil a new signing in time for tomorrow’s decider, said: “Everybody got stuck in and were enjoying themselves and it was a cracking contest until the two crashes happened. I think we could have pulled out a couple of more points on Edinburgh and perhaps could have had a four- or six-point lead to defend.
“Our heads are still up and anything is possible at Armadale tomorrow night.”
Monarchs are also in action at the Premier League Fours tournament at Peterborough on Sunday and have been drawn in Group A alongside Ipswich, Workington, and Peterborough.
Monarchs last won the title in 2013.