PREVIEW Thursday 18th May 2017, 2:43pm
Another tough test is in store for the Parsons Peebles Monarchs this week as we welcome the Newcastle Sapphire Engineering Diamonds to Armadale in SGB Championship action.
Of course this is the return fixture for the first set of league ties as we left Brough Park with 2 points after a hard fought 45-45 draw last Sunday (the third time in a week we had scored 45 points in a match can’t have happened to many times before)
The Diamonds will be keen for revenge and to make up the points lost and arrive with a host of track experts and Armadale pedigree in their ranks. Currently sitting in a falsely low position in the standings due to having ridden less matches than any other team in the division George English’s men also have been the toughest visitors in the Armadale era so we know we will have our work cut out for us if we want to gain an advantage and build a cushion at the top of the league.
Unfortunately as appears to be an almost weekly occurrence a visiting team will come minus its number one. This is absolutely no fault of Newcastle’s as normal number one Robert Lambert has been called upon by Great Britain to ride in the under 21’s. Lambert’s spot will be taken by Aaron Summers. Summers completes the hat trick of Glasgow’s heat leader trio having guested against us now and having witnessed him win the heat 15 decider last week we all know how shrewd a choice this is and that Aaron’s form is as good as ever and his battles against the Monarchs top men will be box office as always.
Number 2 for the Diamonds is one of 2 ex league winning Monarchs in the Diamonds septet (if we include Spud) in the form of Ashley Morris. Morris was part of the 2010 league winning team as a then 16 year old and while he has maybe not made the strides he and many expected over the intervening years he appears to have found a happy home in the north east and is recording his best form of his career so far this season.
A strong looking middle pairing is started by Lewis Rose at number 3. Rose was lining up to be a key man in what many (including myself) thought was a Newcastle team that was going to challenge Somerset in the playoffs last season before he unfortunately was ruled out with injury. The Berkshire born racer has come back stronger than ever this year and is currently riding to an average not far shy of 8 points for his 2017 matches. Rose was almost a match winner for the Diamonds at Armadale last year recording 10+2 from 5 rides at reserve as the Monarchs scrapped a 46-44 victory courtesy of a heat 15 5-1 and if he is on this kind of form again we may very well be in danger.
Joining Lewis in the engine room is popular Swede and guest extraordinaire Ludvig Lindgren. Lindgren made himself a cult hero with the Monarchs faithful last year as he recorded not one but 2 maximums guesting in the place of Sam Masters in our double header against Redcar and Plymouth add to this a semi final slot in this year’s Harrison’s Scottish Open and Ludvig is another who could do some damage on Friday night.
Steve Worrall was due to complete a powerhouse top 5 but unfortunately the Speedway Control Bureau manager, Neil Vatcher, has deemed fit to rule that he must ride for Belle Vue instead. Stepping into the void is Workington's Thomas Jorgensen. Jorgensen is of course an impressive performer also, as we witnessed when he raced to 13 points for Workington at Armadale 2 weeks ago.
The reserve positions have been somewhat problematic for the Diamonds so far this season as their team building strategy of having a strong top 5 left very little to play with at the bottom end. Recent signing Ben Hopwood is hoping to change this. The signing of Hopwood was enforced after incumbent of the number 6 bib Danny Philips sustained serious injuries in a crash at Mildenhall. We all wish Danny a speedy recovery and it is good to hear he is now out of the hospital and making plans for a comeback next season. Hopwood has been around the sport for a number of years and will be looking to make his opportunity at this level stick. A steady rider who impressed when deputising for Dan Bewley on occasion last year Hopwood can be lightning from the gate and will be a tough nut for the Monarchs to crack at the bottom end.
Joining Hopwood at reserve is Connor Coles. Coles is of course a famous surname in Monarchs circles as Connor’s dad Michael was a long term and popular Monarch. Coles is learning his way in the sport and has found the Championship level a little hot to handle so far but the Diamonds are sticking by their man and we all saw last season with Dan how that can come good in the long term.
So that’s the visitors what about our home heroes? Well the Parsons Peebles Monarchs have decided to make some riding order changes this week to try and balance the team a little. Averages dictate that Ricky moved to number 1 and Mark out of reserve after last Friday’s match but a further change has been made to move Josh to number 4 to try and allow a little time for him to grow into matches. Speaking of Josh he added to his injury woes with a heavy smash at Newcastle last week. Thankfully his helmet took the brunt of the damage but a sore neck and back were added to the continuing issues faced with his hand. Josh is made of stern stuff though and will be on track giving his all this week as always.
Another who looks to benefit from the team changes is Max who looked like a different rider at Newcastle last week. Paid 15 was his best ever away performance in Monarchs colours and anyone who witnessed his fast starting and determined riding would have been aghast as to where that had been so far this season. Max was rightfully delighted with his performance playing to the crowd and beaming in the pits afterwards and we all hope this is a precursor for things to come.
So another tough encounter (don’t they all seem to be) is on the cards as the Diamonds come to town. So you all know there is only one place to be on Friday night and that is at Armadale to witness it. See you there!