Edinburgh Monarchs are aiming to make it four Premier League away wins on the trot when they travel to face Sheffield Tigers at Owlerton Stadium tonight.
But the league pacesetters will once again be without injured Australian star Sam Masters who has been sidelined for almost six weeks following a hand injury sustained while riding for Leicester Lions in the Elite League in the second week of July.
And today Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess admitted he has no idea when Masters will be fit to ride again. Harkess said: “It’s very much up to Sam himself to decide when it’s right to come back and we are not putting any pressure on him. He did pull the plaster off on his hand at the weekend and it’s now a question of when his hand is strong enough again and I think at the moment he still feels it’s quite weak.
“But we have covered for him pretty well and the four members of the team who take extra rides to cover his races have done very well indeed.”
There is a possibility, however, that Masters could make his comeback against Berwick Bandits at Armadale a week on Friday.
Sheffield have also been in the wars this season but despite a host of injuries the South Yorkshiremen, who are in fourth place in the table, are on course to make the end-of-season play-offs for the first time in some time.
However, they suffered a further setback last Saturday when their young Australian rider Arthur Sissis suffered a suspected broken collarbone in a last-gasp 42-41 victory at Berwick – and the Tigers management have resigned themselves to the fact he won’t race again this year.
They are now considering recalling Andre Compton to the side. Co-boss Damien Bates said: “It’s going to make our push for that play-off spot a lot tougher now and certain riders within our side know they need to up their game for us to make it.
“It was shocking news for Arthur who was brilliant at Berwick. I can’t quite believe what’s happening this season. If we didn’t have any bad luck, we wouldn’t have any luck at all!”
The Berwick meeting had to be abandoned after 14 heats due to their strict time curfew and the large number of fallers. Tigers co-promoter Peter Mole reflected: “It was a match we had always hoped to win, but it was tough and the lead changed hands several times. A few of our riders had an off night but we pulled together when it mattered most and I think we deserved to just edge it.”
Monarchs certainly have the momentum in the wake of their recent successes at Rye House, Peterborough and Somerset and will be pushing hard for another victory.
Harkess said: “We are happy enough at the moment and if we don’t drop out of the top two we will be seeded directly through to the play-off semi finals which will mean one less meeting for us. And if we are involved in any cup finals, that could be a useful advantage for us.
“We go to Sheffield looking to leave with something, and that’s our philosophy no matter where we go. Sheffield is a big and fast circuit so we know we need to be at our best, but this team is capable of anything as they have already proved.”
Monarchs will look to skipper Craig Cook to lead the way. The Englishman has hit a real purple patch of late and, after smashing his own track record at Armadale last week and lowering Berwick’s 24 hours later, Sheffield could be in real danger this evening.