Edinburgh Monarchs v Rye House Rockets

PREVIEW Friday 13th July 2007, 12:00pm

by Gary Lough

Following recent poor form, Monarchs face another stern test this Friday when they go head to head with 2005 Premier League Champions Rye House at the Lothian Arena.

The Rockets have a hugely impressive Armadale record, with only 2 defeats on our shale and the 52-40 victory during their title winning season represents the highest ever score from a visiting side.

The Hoddesdon outfit enjoy one of the most successful youth development programmes in the sport and credit for this has to go to their Promoter, millionaire pensioner Len Silver. The crafty codger made his fortune through his Silver Ski business. He?ll be most displeased to know I?ve only ever gone skiing once. All seemed fine at first (the chairlift ride was suave!) but, as an experience, I have to say it went rather rapidly downhill from there?

On the negative side, their attitude left a lot to be desired last season, not only up here but also when they miraculously reduced the number of fit riders in their team from five to zero in less than 24 hours, thus avoiding a trip to Glasgow for the Premier League Pairs Championship. I?d like to know what dodgy Doctor / would-be-terrorist they employed to get away with that one! So, providing none of the guys suffer a broken finger nail, fractured hair strand or dislocated eyelash between now and Friday, these are the men we should see on show?

Chris Neath can definitely be described as a ?big fish? in this division. Sadly, he also likes to have a right good moan and was the ring leader during the shenanigans of last season. Typically, he?s in the same boat as most English riders in that he looks good at this level, earns lots of money to pay the bills but has never quite cracked it in the Elite League. He will undoubtedly return double figures in this one but, rest assured, if the lighting in the pits isn?t bright enough or the water in the shower is cold, he won?t be a happy chappy!

Far more of a gentleman is the highly unfortunate Monarchs? Legend Stuart Robson, who will miss this meeting following a season ending crash earlier this year. I?d like to take this opportunity to say a massive ?Get Well Soon? to Robbo.

His replacement is my, er, favourite rider (ahem!), none other than drab German Robbie Kessler. Watch him gate and go but, whatever you do, don?t expect any entertainment!

Steve Boxall is an excellent talent who made his big breakthrough last year. In fact, he was so good, Peter Oakes had to change the rules for his daft reserve grading nonsense halfway through the campaign! Ha ha, well done Steve!

The other outstanding talent in the Rockets? line-up is Tai Woffinden, son of former Monarch Rob. He was racking up points for fun at the start of the year but an untimely wrist injury kept him out recently. He shouldn?t have too many problems with the tight Armadale circuit, seeing as Rye House isn?t exactly Wembley!

Looking further down the ranks and it doesn?t appear as though there are too many weak links in this side. Tommy Allen is a young man I?ve always rated, even before he beat Peter Carr up here in 2004, while Adam Roynon is an ex-Glasgow youngster who also rode for the Dale Devils during his ?speedway nappy? days. Not for long though?

Finally, Luke Bowen seems to have gone backwards somewhat following the broken leg he suffered last season. Probably his most memorable moment to date was when he decided to pick a fight with Matthew Wethers during a Conference League meeting down yonder in 2003. Bizarrely, he didn?t even get as far as throwing a punch before sliding on his backside and retreating to the pits, skulking like a bad kid!

Love them or hate them, the chances of a Rockets win tomorrow seem pretty damn high. We certainly haven?t covered ourselves in glory recently, with the low point coming at the Isle of Wight, a 67-24 defeat the end result of a God awful performance.

Following the KO Cup exit at Somerset, the Promotion have taken action and axed Theo Pijper. For whatever reason, things didn?t quite work out for the track record holder (in my opinion, he should never have dumped his ?fruit salad? kevlars!) and so he now leaves with our best wishes. It?s sort of ironic when you consider he wouldn?t have been in attendance on Friday anyway, so I?m guessing any half decent new signing would be considered an improvement on rider replacement! And, on that note, it?s a big welcome to George Stancl (did I really just say that?!). Here?s hoping he can help us out of a hole, so to speak?

One possible fitness doubt is Henrik Moller, who was forced out of the aforementioned Somerset meeting by the first aid chap. Young Mr Moller says he?ll be fit for this one but, if Rye?s medical friends are on duty at Armadale, you never know!

Elsewhere, skipper Ronnie Correy will be hoping to have a chain dropping-free night. Should this occur (and the rest up their game sufficiently), you never know, we might even witness the shock of the century!!

As always, may the best team win...

Expected line-ups:

Monarchs: George Stancl, Derek Sneddon, Ronnie Correy, Andrew Tully, Henrik Moller (or rider replacement), Jack Roberts (or Aaron Summers?), Matthew Wethers.

Rockets: Chris Neath, Robbie Kessler, Tai Woffinden, Tommy Allen, Steve Boxall, Luke Bowen, Adam Roynon.