Edinburgh Monarchs v Somerset Rebels

PREVIEW Friday 25th October 2013, 12:00pm

by Gordon Fraser

The climax of the Premier League speedway season has come down to a thrilling shootout between the two clubs who have come through very tough Play-Off sections, with Scotwaste Monarchs hosting the first leg of the Final against the Somerset 'Cases' Rebels at Armadale on Friday.

Monarchs did beat the Rebels home and away in the regular league season but after a dead heat in the first running of the two-leg KO Cup Semi Final, Somerset easily won the replayed tie over two legs, so there's really nothing to choose between these two top sides.

As befits such an occasion, the Premier League's top two riders go head to head at No.1. Both Craig Cook and his opposite number, Jason Doyle, have packed in as many matches as they possibly can this year while maintaining an incredibly high standard, so this is a crucial match-up.

Max Fricke will be looking to round off a highly successful debut season with a top performance against Kyle Newman from Poole who is still only 21 but who is now in his seventh year of speedway in the UK, having first started out at Weymouth in 2007.

Claus Vissing has been scoring well in his new position at No.3 and will be expected to outscore his opposite number, 20-year-old Alex Davies, an Australian in his second season with the Rebels after spells with Newport and Newcastle who now boasts a seven point average.

Once again, Hungarian hero Jozsef Tabaka has been coming back to top form and could be a game-changer for Monarchs but he is up against former Glasgow favourite, Josh Grajczonek who has taken on a new lease of life since being loaned to Somerset and having an injury-free run.

Probably the Monarch with most weight on his shoulders will be Theo Pijper who will have to produce his very best battling qualities against Somerset's impressive heat leader trio. At No. 5 he faces the flying 19-year-old Australian, Nick Morris who burst onto the UK scene with Glasgow in 2010.

The two most experienced reserves are at sixes and sevens! Edinburgh's captain fantastic, Derek Sneddon is at No.7 although the man he has to target is one-time Monarchs reserve Charles Wright at No.6 for Somerset who has grown in confidence since being released by Edinburgh.

Both teams track National league guests to make up their numbers. Buxton Hitmen's Liam Carr returns to Edinburgh's No.6 position having impressed anytime he can make a start. Somerset track 18-year-old Oliver Greenwood at No.7 who has an almost identical average with the Coventry Storm.

So once again we have two very evenly matched sides, although Somerset must start as favourites over two legs, having finished several places above Edinburgh in the regular season league table and having a one-and-a-half point lead in the overall green sheet team averages.

At this time of year, the eventual champions may be the team that copes best with heavy conditions, but in any event, Monarchs will need to take a healthy first leg lead to Somerset on Monday, so they will need every last ounce of support you can give them from the terraces. Tapes up 7.30 sharp.

Likely line-ups:

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

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