Speedway: Monarchs must take Bandits seriously

Craig Cook, Matthew Wethers, Derek Sneddon, Kozza Smith. Picture: contributed
Craig Cook, Matthew Wethers, Derek Sneddon, Kozza Smith. Picture: contributed
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BERWICK Bandits are holed up in the last chance saloon as far as their League Cup qualifying hopes are concerned.

Having slumped to a 48-42 home defeat at the hands of Edinburgh Monarchs last weekend, the border speedway team must win tonight’s return tie at Armadale Stadium to maintain their interest in the competition.

And while it may seem like a mission impossible, former Monarchs skipper Matthew Wethers, who joined the Bandits during the winter, insists: “We are not going to Armadale to lose.”

Bandits team manager Ian Rae was critical about his team’s performance, saying: “We need to get our gating sorted out as a priority. Because yet again we were left too far back by the time the Edinburgh riders got to the first bend.

“There are other concerns within the team as well and they need to be ironed out.”

Wethers, who scored nine points against his old team-mates, said: “No-one likes to lose, but it was a difficult match, and we were also without our No. 1 Ricky Ashworth. As for our gating it was hard to tell, watching from the pits as I did, was not the best angle to see what we were doing wrong off the starts.

“I know I made some decent gates, but it’s hard to comment on the rest of the team.”

Wethers, who celebrated a testimonial meeting with Monarchs last year, was frozen out of their 2013 roster and opted to go out on loan to Berwick.

“I have settled in pretty well,” he said. “I’m scoring steady points but there is always room for improvement which I will be attempting to do.”

The Aussie ace is not fazed about returning to Armadale and says: “I will take my usual approach to the match and that is to try and score as many points as I can; in fact everywhere I go that is my main aim.

“I think Berwick have a good team and if you want to reach the top of the pile, it’s not down to one individual, it’s how we all perform and I believe we will get going and can get some good results.”

But Wethers, despite knowing the Lothian Arena circuit like the back of his hand, knows a tall order when he sees one.

“We will be trying to win, and anything can happen and we are certainly not going there to lose. We will try our hardest. All the Edinburgh riders are capable of winning races, but so are we. We must make sure we take our A-game along and not allow Edinburgh to get away too much.”

Ashworth remains sidelined for Berwick and, from a Monarchs standpoint, this tie looks to be a pretty straightforward exercise. “I’d like to think we will get a big win,” said Monarchs co-promoter John Campbell. “We did the hard work down at Berwick under difficult circumstances; track conditions affected the whole match and I’d be surprised if we don’t win well at home.”

And, after notching up a good third-place point at Shielfield Park, there is a growing hope that teenager Max Fricke might just pull off his first race win for Monarchs this evening.

The 17-year-old, who won’t drop down to reserve until June at the earliest, is lacking confidence, according to Campbell, and travelled to Newcastle on Sunday for some extra practice.

But Campbell has no concerns over his young charge, saying: “Max is progressing in exactly the manner I believed he would. I always said he would not be an instant success, but it’s the last couple of months of the season that really matter.

“He just needs one good race when he can get in front, and once he does that I think his confidence will build and he will then score points everywhere, I have no worries about him at all.”

Meanwhile, Glasgow Tigers have announced that their washed out League Cup tie against Monarchs will be restaged at Ashfield on Sunday, May 26. Monarchs are likely to have secured their place in the last four before then.