Edinburgh Monarchs v Somerset Rebels

PREVIEW Wednesday 19th September 2007, 12:00pm

by Dennis Wallace

Our last away match of the season is at Somerset on Wednesday night. We should have gone into it on a high after last weekend but once again Lady Luck has deserted us.

An excellent display against Rye House last Friday followed by a massive win at Berwick on Saturday against an admittedly under-strength Bandits team saw us resurrect some hope of qualifying for the Young Shield but yet again the team has to pick itself up after the massive blow of losing Andrew Tully for the season after he broke his ankle and heel in a heat 3 crash at Scunthorpe on Sunday.

Needless to say, Andrew is just about the most difficult rider to replace in the side because Rider Replacement only allows Derek Sneddon and the two reserves to cover for him. This means that Michael Coles, our guest reserve replacement for Daniele Tessari, and Kalle Katajisto are in for a busy night. In fact it?s likely that Michael and Kalle between them will be out in at least ten of the fifteen heats! Having to compete for points against home track specialists, Jordan Frampton and Daniel Warwick, in addition to the Rebels? top five will give our numbers 6 and 7 a hard time scoring points. So really it will be down to the top four to do most of the foraging.

Lat time at Somerset in the KO Cup we managed just 32 points in an aggregate defeat of 80-99. If we have any chance of winning the bonus we will need a lot more than that. The two KO Cup matches were notable for the fantastic score over the two legs by Matthew Wethers who had a combined total of 24+3 from the reserve berth. This represented 30% of our aggregate total. Even though he is now in the main body of the team he is still knocking up big scores and we will need him to be at his best again.

Matthew, along with George Stancl, Kai Laukkanen and Derek Sneddon will have to battle hard and need to get the team total to at least 40 to keep the bonus point hopes alive. This is a tall order against a side which has dominated at home this season albeit with one or two blips along the way.

The Somerset top two are as strong as you?ll find anywhere. Magnus Zetterstrom is the league?s number one rider. In the KO Cup matches he didn?t drop a single point to us and it?s hard to see how that can be avoided again. Emil Kramer missed last week?s match for the Rebels due to play-off duty in Sweden but he should be back in the ranks for this league match. The third heat leader is Ritchie Hawkins who had such a miserable time riding against us last Saturday at Berwick. More of the same would be a big help to our cause! At home, however, he is unlikely to be beset by his Berwick problems.

The Somerset back-up is very impressive. Young leg-trailer, Simon Walker, has developed well forcing his way into the team proper from reserve and now completely at home round the Oak Tree Arena. Stephan Katt, the other second string, has been less impressive in recent weeks and is one potential weakness in the Rebels? line up but it?s at reserve that they have the real trump cards. Jordan Frampton looked a good prospect when we first saw him in Mildenhall?s colours and he has come on in leaps and bounds (not literally!) since then. Daniel Warwick, too, showed signs of things to come when riding for Berwick and his fast starts have won him many points this season.

We can only wish the team well and hope that the Gods haven?t deserted us completely. In truth though we would need a huge slice of luck coupled to a first class performance from everyone to come close to getting a result in this match. With our stretched resources and Somerset?s need to get a good result to keep their play-off hopes alive another sizeable defeat is on the cards.

Of course I?ve been wrong before (probably more times that I?ve been right ? read my preview of the Rye House match!) so perhaps the perversity that surrounds predictions will strike again. It?s not a lot to hang our hopes on but we?ll take anything we can get at this stage of our injury-strewn season. One thing I do hope for is that Andrew?s injury does not affect the team too badly. Things were just starting to improve again and the feel-good factor was returning. A decent performance on Wednesday night, even if it does result in defeat, will help to keep that going.