Monarchs sure guest riders will handle Armadale’s twist and turns

Max Clegg could be a key figure tonight, just like last week. Picture: Ron MacNeill
Max Clegg could be a key figure tonight, just like last week. Picture: Ron MacNeill
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Edinburgh Monarchs co-promoter John Campbell has firmly rejected suggestions that tonight’s Premier League speedway fixture against Sheffield Tigers at Armadale should have been called off.

With Monarchs missing four of their regular team due to World Cup and German League commitments they have been forced to use guest replacements.

He said: “Even if our fixture list had allowed us to do that I would not have been keen. I said a couple of weeks ago that I’m hoping that some good weather will allow us to build up some momentum to get people back in the habit of coming to Armadale.

“That is what we have to do. Last week’s match against Scunthorpe drew the lowest crowd of the season and was a heavy loss maker and we need dry weather and a consistent schedule of racing starting this evening.”

Having been robbed of their own identity to a degree, Monarchs, who normally would have little fear about defeating Sheffield, may now find the task a lot trickier.

And after Monarchs struggled to get over the line against plucky Scunthorpe seven days ago it’s important they don’t yield against the Tigers, who are third in the table and might feel, given Monarchs’ team situation, they stand a far better chance of success than they otherwise would have.

Team boss Alex Harkess admitted Monarchs were not at their best against Scunthorpe but pointed out that, despite the Lincolnshire outfit’s lowly league status, they had shocked everybody by beating Glasgow and Peterborough before they headed north.

Harkess said: “The track was very difficult last week because of all the rain that fell two hours before start time and the extra shale which we had to put down made it hard for some of our team.

“As a consequence the track was a great leveller with both teams trying to adjust to the conditions. We made a bad start to the match and had to work hard to make up for that. Had we made a good start I’m sure we would have pushed ahead far earlier than we did and under the circumstances we just had to battle on.”

Reserve star Max Clegg produced the race of the night in heat 14 when he doggedly pursued Scunthorpe’s Michael Palm Toft, who is ironically standing in for Erik Riss tonight, overhauling the Dane in fantastic style to follow Ryan Fisher across the line for a 5-1 which allowed Monarchs to breathe a whole lot easier.

It was noticeable that Campbell gave Clegg a big slap on the back after his effort – a visual signal to those who continue to criticise the young Englishman to lay off and let him get on with his job.

Said Harkess: “Although Max’s race was not a turning point because we still would have won the meeting, it did take the pressure off in the last heat which helped considerably and by which time we were getting used to the conditions.

“It was a great chase by Max and he is coming on now and I’m confident he is going to be fine.”

Harkess added: “For some less experienced members of our side, like Mark Riss, it was a track surface they hadn’t ridden on before because it was so different from normal and it was a learning curve for him.”

Having hoisted themselves into sixth position in the league Harkess believes it is still possible for Monarchs to grab first or second spot which would see them seeded directly into the play-off semi finals, thus avoiding the quarter-final stage.

“Our aim was always to get into sixth position but obviously we want to do better. We still have an awful lot of home matches to go but not very many away ones left. So we’ll have to wait and see how things pan out, but the vital thing for us is not to lose at Armadale and, given the circumstances surrounding tonight, it’s even more important than ever that we take all three points.”