Birmingham Brummies v Edinburgh Monarchs

PREVIEW Friday 27th July 2007, 12:00pm

by Dennis Wallace

There will be few fans around, if any, who can remember the last time Edinburgh faced a home match against the Birmingham Brummies. The new boys to the league arrive at Armadale on Friday with a very impressive line-up.

While welcoming Birmingham to Armadale for the first time ever it is with some nervousness we look at the strength of the team they will be tracking on Friday.

The opening pairing consists of Ulrich Ostergaard and Ben Powell. Ostergaard rode for the Isle of Wight in the Premier League before moving up to the Elite League with Peterborough. Now with the new Brummies side he has proved to be one of the top heat leaders in the league. Ben Powell has just moved up from reserve into the main body of the team and it remains to be seen how he adapts to that after scoring well at reserve.

The middle pairing looks to be as formidable a one as we are likley to meet at Armadale. Jason Lyons has top line experience at both Premier and Elite League and is very much the class performer of the side. His partner is not exactly an unknown quantity to us. Henrik Moller returns after a very short absence from the Monarchs team to cross to the other side of the pits attempting this time to scupper our hopes. He made a sparkling debut for the Brummies on Wednesday night when he figured in two 5-1 heat wins for his new side as they ran up a comfortable win against Glasgow. With 3 points from his other two races he was credited with 8+1 on the night, punching way above his average. A similar performance on Friday will probably be too much for us to handle!

The third Brummies' pairing might have looked to be a bit of an Achilles heel since Emiliano Sanchez blows hot and cold and probably wouldn't rate Armadale as one of his best tracks. However Birmingham pack a real punch at reserve these days with Lee Smart carding some impressive scores and, rare visitor to Armadale and another newcomer to the visitors' ranks, Manuel Hauzinger making some fast starts also to run up some big points tallies.

All in all this Brummies side may well turn out to be the strongest opposition we have to face between now and the end of the season. It will be a tough test for the boys in blue and gold although they will draw strength from the excellent performance last week when Mildenhall were seen off with some ease.

Hopefully George Stancl will find that extra bit of oomph he seemed to be lacking from his engine last week to hit his first maximum of the season while Derek Sneddon will turn in another captain's performance at number 2.

Kai Laukkanen looked impressive last week and, once he gets his set up right for Armadale, there are potential maximums from him too in the not too distant future. Andrew Tully looked lively last week and must surely be on the verge of a big return once he makes a few decent starts.

What about Kalle Katajisto? In each of his races last week, including those in the second half, he looked better and better. It's hard to believe he's so young but he gave notice of great things to come. It's too early yet to expect him to contribute much to the team total but it will be fascinating watching him progress each week. With Matthew Wethers in such impressive form and taking most of the third pairing rides we continue to look for huge scores from him which puts a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. His efforts last week were absolutely brilliant and he probably didn't get as much recognition as he might with so much attention being diverted elsewhere on a memorable night. Aaron Summers continues at reserve and we will remember that it was his second place for the 5-1 in heat 2 last week which not only surprised us all, including him!, which set the match alight. A repeat of that could do the same again.

The important thing is to build on last week's feel-good performance. We might have wished for less of a challenge that the current Birmingham team bolstered by Henrik but that's the way the fixtures have worked out for us. I have an uneasy feeling that this match has come too early for the new team and may prove to be unwinnable. Speedway is a strange sport, however, and I felt a bit like that last week so who knows? I know we will get right behind the new side and give them all the support we can in getting a result from this match.