Justin Sedgmen today said his partnership with skipper Craig Cook is the strongest in the Premier league and he is counting on that to take Edinburgh Monarchs through to the championship speedway Grand Final for the third season running, providing they overcome Peterborough Panthers in tonight’s semi final play-off second leg tie at Armadale.
Monarchs are just two points in arrears following Sunday’s first match at the East of England Showground, which saw Sedgmen return to top form with a paid 16-point haul.
The Australian and Cook forged a trio of 5-1 advantages together which was instrumental in keeping the scores close and Sedgmen said: “Our pairing is the best in the league, there is no doubt about that. Our record together from last season and this year is unreal, and it would be great to keep it going just a bit longer, especially if we make the final.”
Monarchs’ display against the Panthers was a laudable one, bearing in mind they were without Kevin Wolbert and Sam Masters was under the weather with a suspected flu bug.
“It was a terrific result under the circumstances”, said Sedgmen. “We had to dig deep because Peterborough are a top side, but we won’t be taking anything for granted going into the second leg.”
He added: “It’s all about tonight and we cannot allow ourselves to become complacent. We are 100 per cent focused on making the final. It’s the only thought we have.”
Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess believes his side can do it. “I was very pleased how we rode in the first match,” he said, “and I’m confident we will qualify for the final. And now that Kevin is back we are at full strength once more and that is such an advantage. Kevin has been very strong at home on occasions this season and I’m sure he will want to do well on his return from injury to help us to victory.”
Sedgmen admitted Monarchs were still hurting a bit in the wake of losing their Knockout Cup crown to Somerset Rebels 48 hours earlier, the first team competition Monarchs had lost since 2013.
Sedgmen said: “I shed a chain in heat ten when I was on a 5-1 (with Cookie) and that was the turning point of the match. Everything had been going pretty well until that point. That was my fifth ride in ten races and perhaps that added to the stress on the chain, but we moved on from that as we proved down at Peterborough.”
Panthers boss Ged Rathbone knows his side, who have been hit hard with injuries this term, will need to do something pretty special to thwart Monarchs. He said: “We wanted a lead to take into the second leg and we got a small one. We were a bit unlucky with Ben [Barker’s] retirement in the final race because I felt sure he and Anders [Thomsen] would have brought home a 5-1 to put us six points up, which would have been better.
“But we are still alive and kicking and will continue to fight on as we have done throughout this season.”
Rathbone went on: “I believe we can defend our lead and Monarchs will have our league win at Armadale earlier in the season in the back of their minds and we need to make sure they know they are in for a tough meeting again.”
However, Rathbone also praised Monarchs for the manner in which they equipped themselves and confessed: “We could have done with a lesson in gating from Edinburgh. We have got some good trappers in our side, but the Edinburgh boys were phenomenal on Sunday. I don’t know what Edinburgh do or what they use but it certainly works for them.
“But we were also caught out a bit by some slicker than anticipated track conditions in the early stages of the match, which threw us a little.”
Monarchs, if they progress, await the winners of the Somerset-Glasgow semi-final. If Somerset prevail, it could be a repeat of last year’s final – which Monarchs won by a single point on aggregate.