It's another crucial Championship Shield match-up for the Staggs Bar Monarchs this week with the added spice of a derby as we welcome the Glasgow Tigers to Armadale.
This being a huge match for both in the group standings as both hope to chase down the current group topping Berwick. A home defeat for the Monarchs would almost certainly spell the end of our progression chances while a defeat for the Tigers means they will need to win all their remaining matches to have a chance of qualification.
Of course no derby match is ever unimportant regardless of the circumstances but this certainly adds a little to the event for what is sure to be an exciting tussle on the track.
The Tigers have had a slowish start to the season fixture wise with similar to the Monarchs a later start to the fixtures also being added to by Craig Cook's testimonial last weekend, meaning this is only their 3rd match of the season. As always with the nature of speedway this does not mean that the Tigers will be sluggish with most of the line-up also having been in action elsewhere.
One man who hasn't had any other racing after a tumultuous winter from a Premiership point of view is Tigers no1 Craig Cook, this does not seem to have had any adverse effect though with Cook of to a flying start with maximums in both his Ashfield matches and a 16 point haul at Berwick. This will be Craig's first match in a Tigers race suit against the Monarchs and he is sure to still know the quickest way round the Dale still being the track record holder despite this being his 4th season out of the Blue and Gold.
Backup for Cook is expected to come from a pair of Dane's who make up the heat leader positions in Claus Vissing and Rasmus Jensen. Both have had their moments at Armadale also, Vissing another former Monarch is always capable of popping out and winning a heat whereas Jensen enjoyed success as part of the all conquering Workington line-up last year. This came with a mixed bag of Armadale results with scores of paid 8, paid 5 and 8 from 3 visits.
Second string back-up comes from 2 returning Tigers from 2018 in Paul Starke and James Sarjeant. Starke himself admitted he did not enjoy the best of years last year and he no doubt will be looking to show what he is made off, a rider who has the knack of winning things and with an excellent Armadale record Starke could be key to the Tigers chances this year. A lot has been said about Sarjeant over the years and he is another who perhaps there is a feeling is not as far progressed in his career as many would have expected. Sarjeant is another who has a host of strong Dale performances to his name and the Monarchs will need to subdue him and Starke if they are to come out victorious.
With the reduction of the points limit this winter not deterring the Tigers from bringing back Cook this meant something had to give elsewhere and it looks like the trade off for the Tigers was to go with 2 2.00 point riders at reserve. Originally this was due to be Luke Chessell and Joe Lawlor but circumstances then dictated that Lawlor was to be replaced by Kyle Bickley and this looks to have been a coup. Bickley has the benefit of a full season of experience in that Comets team from last year and this will surely give him a leg up over a host of the inexperienced debutants at reserve this year. A home debut score of 8+1 being backed up by 4 points at Berwick would attest to this. Chessell on the other hand has had a difficult start to the season with 0 points to his name so far, it is always difficult to get back into the swing of things after so long out though and on the back of coming back from a nasty injury the feeling in the Tigers camp is still that the well spoken Chessell will come good in time.
For the home men we will be looking to build on an encouraging 12 point victory over Newcastle last Friday. Ricky was back to his best with only one point dropped and Justin also showed more of what we are used to with an engine failure being the only thing stopping him from a double digit return. Josh and Cameron carried on their strong start tot eh season with Josh also having had a spin this week in Poland to get further up to speed. Joel looks still to be trying to find the quickest way back round the Dale but a heat 14 win last week will have done his confidence a world of good. At reserve it was another pleasing weekend for Luke gating well and riding smartly always on the pass while William continues to seem to struggle early in meetings before coming good as the night progresses, this is something that will need to be improved upon as we all know that he should be up there as one of the strongest reserves in the division.
So a titanic tussle looks in store with as always no quarters asked or given, the Tigers fan swill be sure to make themselves heard as they look to turn the 3rd bend into a sea of red so it's up to us Monarchs to make sure they have nothing to shout about.
As always there is only one place to be to see the action and that is trackside….
See you there!
Friday 26th April 2019, 7:55pm
Tonight's match against Glasgow was called off early following heavy rain. We don't have a restaging date at the moment and obviously it's not an easy one with two Friday teams involved.
Wednesday 24th April 2019, 7:00pm
The Staggs Bar Monarchs face up to local rivals Glasgow – and Craig Cook – at Armadale this Friday. Both sides have had one win and one loss in the Championship Shield, and both are looking for as many points as possible over the weekend to put pressure on section leaders Berwick.
Tuesday 23rd April 2019, 9:41pm
It's a big night at Armadale on Friday as it always is when the Monarchs and Tigers do battle, but it is also Monarchs Fans Trust night as our friends from the MFT set out to remind supporters what an important contribution they can make to the club.