Edinburgh Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess reckons tonight’s Championship Shield derby clash against Glasgow Tigers at Armadale will be “the most difficult qualifying match in our group”.
Monarchs got their Shield campaign off to a promising start by taking a point from Workington Comets at Derwent Park last weekend. Harkess, though, wasn’t entirely satisfied with his team’s performance.
He said: “We carried too many last places. We had enough heat winners to actually win the meeting, but those last places were disappointing.
“It was not a good point. Workington is a place we’ve had mixed fortunes at in the past and I felt we could have done better. Okay, we did not come away empty handed, it was a step in the right direction. It was something to build on and it was nice not to have a match dictated by the weather, although it did get colder later on.”
Harkess may well look at the displays from former Workington rider Matt Williamson and his reserve partner Josh Pickering and conclude more could have been expected from the tail-end duo, who scored five and one respectively.
He said: “Josh certainly struggled, that is fair comment. He did not gate well and did not compete which was disappointing from our point of view.
“Josh will know that more than anybody and can hopefully bounce back this evening.
“Matt, we probably looked to get more from him, being an ex-Workington rider, these two riders are at reserve and should be beating the opposition’s reserves, that is what we expect them to do.
“Our top two Ricky Wells and Erik Riss did very well and if they can do that in every match we will be happy.”
It might be fanciful to suggest that Glasgow are going to run riot in the qualifying group because the Tigers, after defeating Berwick Bandits convincingly at Ashfield, couldn’t repeat the trick at Shielfield Park, and only left with a point, which was an undoubted setback for them.
Harkess said: “Glasgow might not be as strong as some people think and I think the group is very wide open, nobody is dominating the group at this stage. People should not jump to any conclusions yet.
“It’s important we win this evening; winning at home is always our aim. Glasgow will always be a test for us and we look forward to the challenge.
“I expect it to be the most difficult match in our group and we are well up for it.”
Williamson believes that himself and Pickering are not yet fully match fit. “There are some members of the Edinburgh team who ride on the Continent. But Josh and myself are still a bit race rusty at the moment,” he said.
“Hopefully we can kick on now and I thought we did really well to get a match point.”
Williamson felt his five points from reserve was a creditable contribution. “The Championship League is a much tougher league now, it has some strong riders all the way through, it’s a lot stronger league than it has been in the past.
“I felt I had some good rides. I battled for a second place in my first ride against Bradley Wlson-Dean. He is a decent rider who was in the top league in 2017. And I also got a second place behind Charles Wright in another of my rides.
“Five points I put on the board which is above my average. You obviously want to do better and I was actually a bit nervous going into the match because I had ridden for Workington in the past, and their fans were taunting me a bit, but I still felt it went well for me.”