Edinburgh Monarchs v Somerset Rebels

PREVIEW Friday 30th August 2013, 12:00pm

by Gordon Fraser

This Friday sees yet another in the seemingly never-ending stream of really tough matches when Somerset Rebels bring a potentially strengthened side to Armadale hoping to defend an eight-point lead from the first leg of the Knockout Cup Semi-Final against the slightly under-strength Monarchs.

Having lost by eight at the Scotwaste Arena in the League a fortnight ago, the Rebels lamented the lack of back-up for their three heat leaders who were excellent on the night and they have signed two new reserves especially for this match, one an injury replacement for Stefan Nielsen.

But from the top, Craig Cook looked to be back to his very best last Friday and he will be hoping not to drop four points from his five races as he did last time against the flying Australian Jason Doyle who managed three wins in his 13 points, including two wins out of three against the Monarchs' No.1.

Max Fricke had a quiet-scoring match against the Rebels a fortnight ago but he is capable of very much more than the four points he gained that night. His opposite number, Kyle Newman, also scored four in that match, including an exclusion, so this could be another critical match-up.

Theo Pijper is another who seems to be roaring back into top form and is capable of improving on his eight points from five starts last time. His opposite number, Josh Grajczonek also scored eight but his was from only four starts, so Theo needs to improve the balance in his favour.

At No.4, Monarchs' mercurial Magyar, Joszef Tabaka had a great home meeting against the Rebels last time, dropping only two points to opponents, and more of the same will be required if he is again to eclipse the 20-year-old Australian Alex Davies who only managed a single point.

Claus Vissing recorded two last places after taking five points from his first two rides on the Rebels last visit, so he will be hoping to be back to full fitness and scoring more consistently against the super-fast Australian teenager, Nick Morris who was paid for thirteen points to Claus's five.

Josh Bates was Monarchs' hero last time, but his unfortunate chipped wrist bone injury means Monarchs are at the mercy of finding any available National League guest rider to face Rebels' brand new No.6, Lewis Rose who is currently third in the averages of the King's Lynn Young Stars.

If Monarchs are to win this match and this tie, they will need a big score from their captain Derek Sneddon. His opposite number is former Monarchs reserve Charles Wright who has been near-unbeatable for the Buxton Hitmen since dropping back into the National League where he has been rebuilding his confidence.

These two sides have proven to be really evenly matched, not only on paper but also in their on-track meetings this season so far, so this should be an absolutely cracking cup-tie. Somerset will be desperate to get into that first corner in front and to add to their first-leg lead right from the start.

As for Monarchs, if they all ride at their best, they should win on the night and progress to the Final (without the concern of losing an 8-0 as they did last week). But they will have to be ultra-sharp right from Heat 1 onwards as the visitors will pounce on any mistakes or weaknesses. Be there at 7.30 sharp!.

Likely line-ups:

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

'CASES' SOMERSET REBELS: Jason Doyle (capt.), Kyle Newman, Josh Grajczonek, Alex Davies, Nick Morris, Lewis Rose, Charles Wright.