Leicester Lions
Ryan Douglas 8 (5)
Edinburgh Monarchs
Josh Pickering 11 (5)
Saturday 22nd May 2021
Paul Chapman & Sons Arena

The What The Fork Monarchs race into Championship action this Saturday as we take the trip down the A1 to take on reigning champs Leicester in the opening league fixture for both.

A bigger challenge could not be asked for with the Lions looking to defend their crown and certainly tipped among the favourites to win it all once again. This prediction being predicated on what must be the strongest top 5 in the division and the promise of youthful endeavour at the bottom end.

Ryan Douglas and Nick Morris form the spearhead for Stewart Dickson's men with Douglas coming off the back off an eye-opening Australian season where titles and final appearances seemed to follow at every meeting he participated in. It is somewhat hard to believe that Morris is still only 26 years old this being his 11th season on these shores now, a serial winner and one who will be looking to fend off Douglas for that number 1 race jacket.

The middle order of the Lions is full of experience with all 3 having tasted league glory in the past also and all having been heat leaders at one point or another as well. Kyle Howarth is no stranger to the Blue and Gold faithful having had a spell as a Monarch in his younger days. The last few seasons have been somewhat injury blighted for Kyle, but it was not that long ago he held an 8.5 average and was a key man in Sheffield's league winning side and the break may have done him good as he looks to regain that form.

Ty Proctor was part of the league winning side of 2019 and his another who on his day will make a mockery of his sub 7 starting average, the spark that made Ty a 9-point rider a couple of years ago seems to have gone slightly but he is still a key man and with a busy schedule for the Lions and Kings Lynn in the Premiership a big year could await.

Completing the power packed quintet is Josh Bates, much has been made about Bates appearing in the 'Rising Star' system allowing a reserve berth in the Premiership, but that discussion can be left for another day. At this level Bates can be another who can shine although a career blighted by injury and inconsistency has meant the impact expected of a 2-time British U21 champ has never materialised. Still only 25 and with all signs pointing to a more settled and matured life on and off the track time is still on the Barnsley born racer's time to turn this around.

With such a strong top 5 allowances have to be made elsewhere and, in this case, it is at reserve where the Lions will field the inexperienced but highly touted Thompson twins Dan and Joe. Both are local lads and products off the Leicester development squads so it will be a great source of pride for the Lions management and faithful to see them line up at this level. Both have been the frontrunners in the youth championships the last few years at various levels so shouldn't be overawed and with their experience of the Leicester racetrack certainly won't be intimidated particularly at home.

That's quite enough about the home men though what about our Blue and Gold heroes? Well, we can head south with a modicum of confidence in that in their title winning year of 2019 the Monarchs were the team to run them closest going down by only 5 points and taking a league point, a repeat of that result tonight would be most welcome.

Star of the show back in July 2019 was number 1 Sam Masters who raced to an immaculate 15-point max, Josh also hit double figures and William weighed in with a heat win from the number 4 position so repeats of those levels of performance could be a good base for success.

Elsewhere we have plenty of Leicester experience with Richie and Joe being members of that league winning side in 2019 and Joe of course having raced at Beaumont Park as recently as Wednesday night in his role as number 1 and captain for Leicester's National League side.

With plenty of experience and previous success at the top and bottom of the team that leaves the crucial middle order as where the match could be won and lost and that is where a big performance from either Nathan or debutant Kye could swing the balance. As has been mentioned previously this will be no easy task with the Lions middle order one of the strongest around but even a few race points could be crucial in tipping the balance in the Monarchs favour.

So, a big night lies ahead for both as Championship action returns and the What The Fork Monarchs take to the track as a septet for the first time, for those not in attendance keep an eye on the Monarchs official website for updates and those making the trip be sure to give the boys an extra loud cheer as the Monarchs are back!