Despite a weather interrupted start to the new speedway campaign at Armadale, young Aussie reserve Josh Pickering already feels he is showing improvement in his second season with Edinburgh Monarchs.
As he prepares to face Berwick Bandits in tonight’s Championship Shield clash, Pickering says he has learned lessons from 2017, stating: “Yes definitely. There were some guys who I thought were a big threat to me last year but now I go out and don’t worry about them, it’s more of a confidence thing really.
“I’ve got a lot quicker and I’m waiting now and not rushing into things as before. A lot of races last year, I crashed in a few of them.
“I tried too hard at times in some of my races. I’m a bit calmer now and take things as they come.”
One criticism that Pickering hasn’t entirely deflected is his tendency to ‘override’. he says: “It just depends, if it’s a point the team needs I’ll go for it, whatever is best for the team in a way.
“If we are really pushing hard and we are ten points down what does it matter if we go 11 points down. But pulling back five points is a lot better, it just depends on the circumstances at the time.”
Monarchs’ Championship Shield qualifying hopes lie in tatters after home and away defeats by Glasgow Tigers last weekend. Pickering thinks the mentality surrounding derby clashes has to change to a degree. “No matter what we do we have to remember to treat every match the same.
“We don’t need to treat our matches with Glasgow as anything special. At the end of the day we had to go to Ashfield and try and win the fixture for our fans.
“Glasgow were the best team on the day, they had a lot more consistent rides than we did. But all in all losing was bad and we had to take it as a loss.
“But it made it worse because it was against Glasgow.”
The loss to the Tigers at Armadale last Friday was an expensive reverse, one which effectively puts Monarchs out of the competition, and the frustration was compounded by tricky track conditions that saw riders from both teams going down like ninepins.
Says Pickering: “The track surface was a bit tricky early on. But Glasgow have got an experienced side, some of our boys by comparison are a lot younger.
“The track was consistently grippy all over, there were no slick spots. It did become nice to ride later on. But early on it didn’t matter what you did, you were getting grip everywhere.”
Monarchs have an outside chance of reaching the semi-finals if they can finish as one of the best runners-up from the three qualifying groups. But nobody is holding their breath.
Pickering says: “Yes it will be hard, we can’t take Berwick for granted. But I’m confident in the boys and myself that we’ll turn up tonight and do what we have to do.”
Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess isn’t sure about securing a best runners-up spot, saying: “I’m not sure how the other groups are doing, it’s too early to say.
“We need to get back to a winning mentality at Armadale, it’s a habit we can’t afford to get out of, we’ll see what happens.”
Ominously, Monarchs have also drawn Glasgow in the first round of Knockout Cup next month and another exit would be catastrophic. Harkess adds: “I haven’t even thought that far ahead yet.”
Monarchs will be without captain Erik Riss this evening because he is riding in the European Championships. King’s Lynn’s Thomas Jorgensen will guest.