The shock 51-39 home defeat by Sheffield Tigers seven days ago was perhaps the wake-up call Edinburgh Monarchs had been dreading as it exposed some glaring weaknesses in the squad.
Now the team must show they have the character and mental strength to strike back against Peterborough Panthers at Armadale tonight and a testing trip to Glasgow Tigers at Ashfield 24 hours later.
Promoter John Campbell called the result ”a blip, a one-off blip” and promised normal service will be resumed this evening. He told the Evening News: “We were all bitterly disappointed at how it finished last Friday and the team have talked about it and fully expect to bounce back.”
It seemed as if Monarchs had the Tigers on a tight leash over the first third of the match only to fold like a pack of cards during the final six heats which Sheffield totally dominated with some spirited riding.
Campbell admitted: “I didn’t see the result coming, I don’t think anyone saw it coming. Our heads went down a little when a 4-2 for us turned into a 4-2 for them when Sam Masters had his engine failure.
“Perhaps that made a difference. Then we had heat 13 when Sam came together with Kyle Howarth which left Sam with a broken collarbone. It’s just one of these things, circumstances on the night.
“Everybody should have been aware of how well Sheffield had done on their two previous visits to Armadale this season when they ran us very close on both occasions, and in Chris Harris they also had a fantastic guest.
“I was hugely disappointed by the result, while I expected Sheffield to run us close again, I did not expect to lose. The same Monarchs team with the same riders went to Ipswich Witches and won, I put it down to a blip, a one-off blip.”
Campbell, who said he has never contemplated changing the team, believes the setback is by no means fatal for their play-off hopes. “If we win our remaining home fixtures we’ll be in the play-offs for certain.
“Our main rivals are Redcar Bears and we are ahead of them at the moment. Redcar’s run-in until the end of the season is exactly the same as ours with the same teams coming up.
“The only difference is we have potential away matches we might well win. I think Redcar have the top five teams in the league to meet away from home.
“Berwick and Scunthorpe are matches I think we have a better chance of winning away from home. I’m confident we’ll finish in the top four.”
Campbell revealed just how crestfallen his racers were at the Sheffield loss. “The team have a Facebook page and all the postings after Friday said ‘how did we manage to lose that one. We can’t let that happen again, we have got to keep going and keep winning at home and do well away from home’.
“The team have talked about nothing else and realise the Sheffield match was not a normal situation.”
But one thing is certain the pressure is on for second string star Max Clegg and reserve Mitchell Davey who must step up their scoring ability to give Monarchs a chance of championship success.
Finding guests to cover for Masters, who underwent an operation on his collarbone in a bid to reduce the time he is sidelined at this critical juncture in the season, is not proving straightforward as Campbell said: “Although Sam has a high average the choice of guests is not great. There are always matches going on elsewhere and this reduces the availability of guests and I know already it will be a difficult choice over the next few weeks.”
But for this week’s matches Campbell has booked in Newcastle’s Ludvig Lindgren as guest cover.
Meanwhile, Monarchs’ trip to Glasgow is a tough assignment and they were heavily defeated on their first trip to Ashfield earlier in the season. Campbell added: “Obviously we would like to do better this time. I don’t honestly know what will happen through there. It’s not a match we have targeted for a win.”