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Edinburgh Monarchs v Scunthorpe Scorpions

PREVIEW Friday 24th May 2013, 12:00pm

by Gordon Fraser

Three weeks later than originally planned, Monarchs face a nail-biting Premier League fixture against the holders, Scunthorpe Scorpions whom fans will remember skating effortlessly round a saturated Armadale track towards the end of last season to record a stunning win.

Scunthorpe look every bit as strong this time around and, despite a sluggish start in terms of results, make no mistake it will take a very good side to beat them. But Monarchs are looking a more solid septet with every match and with decent track conditions they have shown they can more than match what is thrown at them.

Craig Cook is in irresistible form and is surely on the threshold of much greater things in speedway. He will certainly have to be at his best to subdue 22-year-old Josh Auty from Sheffield who has become one of the most exciting British riders since his first appearance at Armadale in an U-15 Championship.

Derek Sneddon showed just how tough speedway riders can be after picking himself up from a horrific crash last week that wrecked his bike and coming back to score valuable points. There is no opposing No.2 after Thomas Jorgensen from Denmark unluckily suffered a broken shoulder..

Theo Pijper continues to dominate the Armadale shale from No.3 since returning to the blue and gold, so the home fans will be looking for more of the same as he faces a talented young Danish rider, 22-year-old Michael Palm Toft who made an instant impression in his first UK season towards the end of 2011.

Max Fricke had a difficult Friday last week but immediately bounced back with his first ever heat win a day later at Plymouth. His opposite number this week is 22-year-old Ashley Birks from Sheffield who only took up speedway when he was Max's age and has since made rapid progress.

The Monarchs' totally committed No.5, Claus Vissing will love the challenge of facing one of the league's top riders and Armadale specialists, 30-year-old David Howe from Leicester who has ridden most of his career in the Elite League and who has just enjoyed a successful testimonial.

Monarchs now have a new No.6, Mitchell Davey, who has immediately started to get among the points with some really important rides. His opposite number is 19-year-old Ryan Douglas from Australia who was finding himself under pressure until Scunthorpe signed a new No.7.

Diminutive Hungarian, Jozsef Tabaka continues to ride like a heat leader from the reserve position and he will need to be at his best against the latest Scorpions' signing, 26-year-old Lewis Blackbird from Peterborough who has been dominating the National League scorecharts.

The Scorpions are capable of keeping the scores close, so this could come down to a test of nerves. A mistake, and engine failure or a rider having an off night could make all the difference. This is a really big test for Monarchs so lets get out in force at 7.30 on Friday to support them. It'll be a cracker!

Likely line-ups:

EDINBURGH SCOTWASTE MONARCHS: Craig Cook, Derek Sneddon (capt.), Theo Pijper, Max Fricke, Claus Vissing, Mitchell Davey, Jozsef Tabaka.

HENDERSON INSURANCE SCUNTHORPE SCORPIONS: Josh Auty, rider replacement for Thomas Jorgensen, Michael Palm Toft, Ashley Birks, David Howe (capt.), Ryan Douglas, Lewis Blackbird.