PREVIEW Friday 21st September 2012, 12:00pm
Sixth placed Edinburgh Monarchs finish their regular home league programme by pitting their multinational line-up against fourth placed Leicester Lions' Scandinavian select in a rehearsal for the all important Premier League Play-Offs at the Scotwaste Arena, Armadale this Friday (7.30).
With any luck, this will be the last week Monarchs will have to do without the services of star performers Craig Cook and Jozsef Tabaka who have been missing for six weeks through injury now, although they have been very well covered by some outstanding guest rider displays.
They will hope this continues with Aaron Summers at No.1 who has become something of a pantomime villain in the James Grieves mould with some Monarchs fans since his time as a favourite in the blue and gold. The blond Aussie led his new club, Redcar, to a big win over Leicester last night.
His opposite number is well known to Edinburgh fans, the formidable 33-year-old Finn, Kauko Nieminen, formerly of Workington and Lakeside fame. Since replacing Sergey Darkin in the new Leicester side, Kauko has also become the Lions' captain and leader of a strong heat leader trio.
Local favourite, Derek Sneddon shrugged off his bad luck of the previous week and was back on top form in last Friday's double header. This week at No.2 he faces 26-year-old Danish rider Jan Graversen who has yet to regain the level he attained with the 2009 all-conquering King's Lynn Stars.
The keystone to Monarchs' success this season, Theo Pijper, lines up opposite 18-year-old Danish prospect, Lasse Bjerre, the younger brother of Grand Prix rider Kenneth Bjerre. Lasse, who was brought to UK speedway by King's Lynn and starred for Ipswich last season holds down a 7+ average.
Edinburgh's reliable skipper, Matthew Wethers, a member of the famous 2003 Monarchs side, faces a lively opposite number at No.4 in 22-year-old Swedish racer, Linus Eklof who also started out with King's Lynn and boasts a 7+ average. He had a brief spell with Berwick at the end of last year.
Fresh from seven race wins in the Glasgow / Rye House double header, Andrew Tully faces the youngest of the Swedish Karlsson clan, Magnus (now 30), who was of course also part of Monarchs' first Championship winning side in 2003 and has been an ever-present for the Lions this season
Last week's surprise package at No.6, Byron Bekker from South Africa lines up next to 22-year-old Finnish rider Jari Makinen who is on loan from King's Lynn. Currently fourth in Finland's pecking order, Jari is an excellent rider to have at reserve with a very useful 4.58 green sheet average.
Mercurial Marcel Helfer should start on roughly equal terms with his opposite number at No.7, 25-year-old Lewis Blackbird , son of Carl Blackbird, from Peterborough who is the a star of the National League with Mildenhall and is trying to make the step up to the Premier League.
Both sides have strength in depth throughout their top fives, with Leicester possibly having a slight edge at reserve. But with home advantage and no disasters, Monarchs should be expected to take all three points which would draw them level with the Lions in the league table.
However as last week's matches showed, it can take Monarchs some time to start drawing out a lead and the longer Leicester can keep the scores close, the more confident they will become. With good track conditions predicted, this should be an excellent battle between two top sides. Tapes up 7.30.
EDINBURGH SCOTWASTE MONARCHS: Aaron Summers (guest), Derek Sneddon, Theo Pijper, Matthew Wethers (capt.), Andrew Tully, Byron Bekker (guest), Marcel Helfer.
LEICESTER LIONS: Kauko Nieminen (capt.), Jan Graversen, Lasse Bjerre, Linus Eklof, Magnus Karlsson, Jari Makinen, Lewis Blackbird.