Early season action against the Witches Image Credit: Ron MacNeill

Playoffs Start Tonight

NEWS Thursday 22nd September 2016, 4:09pm

by Graham Muncie

It’s down to business as the Monarchs go in search of a hat-trick of league titles in the Premier League Playoffs starting at Ipswich this Thursday night.

It could be argued that everything up to now has just been a precursor as the 6 teams that have made it all start afresh (albeit with the advantage to Somerset and Glasgow with first round byes) and all will fancy their chances of tasting glory come the end of the season.

The Tru7.Com Witches have had an up and down season. They were tipped to make the playoffs by both the club officials and fans in the annual preseason Speedway Star predictions (not a bad effort this year with 5 of the 6 playoff teams being correctly predicted) but at times it looked like the playoffs would be out of their reach but a surge of form in the 2nd half of the season spearheaded by a resurgent Danny King and some solid back up from a couple of team changes has seen the Suffolk men hit the playoffs at just the right time and perhaps as the danger team leading in.

The Witches are led from the front by perhaps the story of the season in British Speedway. Danny King came into the year as an undoubted top man in the league but few would have thought he would be sitting at this stage of the season as British Champion, Cardiff Wildcard (just missing the semi finals) and as a silver medallist in the World Cup. His recent PL form has been exceptional as well particularly round his home confines where he has only tasted defeat twice in his last EIGHT home matches and one of them was a engine failure while leading.

As previously mentioned it has not been a one man show though and midseason signing the ever popular Ben Barker has galvanised the Witches side. Ben could perhaps feel aggrieved to have been axed at Glasgow after a solid start to the season but the Tigers loss (I’m sure their fans are more than happy with Rene Bach) has been Ippo’s gain and Ben gives consistent backup to Danny at the top of the team.

This leads into the engine room of the team which is all action if a little inconsistent at times. Nico Covatti is improving year on year and at his best us absolutely scintillating to watch. He is also starting to make a name for himself on the international stage having taken part in the European Championships this season.

Experienced Dane Morten Risager is a potent second string and can be a match winner on his day and is another on the best form of his season in the last few weeks.

Filling out the top 5 is ex Glasgow rider Jumpin James Sarjeant as keen a rider as ever (perhaps overly so at the starts) Sarjeant has consolidated well this year and is showing he has a bright future in the sport.

Key to the battle over the 2 legs could come at reserve. Senior reserve for the Witches is Joe Jacobs, Jacobs has been a revelation particularly for the Belle Vue Aces this year after appearing to be lost to the sport and he has been translating these Elite League performances into the Premier League recently. Jacobs was not at his best on Sky in the Elite League Playoffs last night and it has been reported he is battling the flu just now.

Number 7 is guest Connor Coles. A famous Monarchs surname if ever there was one. This position has been a revolving door for the Witches this year but they appeared to have settled well on Danyon Hume recently before he came a cropper and Coles will look to step up and match the job that Hume was doing.

What a week it’s been for the Border Roofing Monarchs. Firstly as a team we put down a marker for the playoffs by maintaining our home record against a strengthened Somerset Rebels last Friday. While we were doing so Erik was reaching the semi final of the 2nd round of the world under 21 GP’s with better to come 24 hour later as he raced to an immaculate maximum to clinch his second World Longtrack Champion. Joining Erik in clinching glory over the last week was Max Clegg firstly British u19 Champion last Wednesday then National League Riders Champion on Saturday night what a week for the young man.

The flip side of this success was the news we had all been dreading that it appears that we have seen the last of Dan Bewley for this season. Dan is still suffering the after effects of his smash at Newcastle and the doctor has advised against a track return this year so that is that. It’s a blow to our chances as he is almost irreplaceable with the form he had been showing but this pales in significance to the young man’s health and we will hope to see him back at the Dale next year. Deputising for Dan once again is Ben Hopwood, Ben more than deserves another go after his excellent performance at Armadale for the Monarchs last Friday.

So we go into the Playoffs for the first time in 3 years without the top seed but we know what our boys are capable off and we will look to get off to a strong start at Foxhall Heath to make the home leg a week on Friday as comfortable as possible.

Ipswich Tru7.Com Witches

1 Danny King

2 James Sergeant

3 Nico Covatti

4 Morten Risager

5 Ben Barker

6 Joe Jacobs

7 Connor Coles

Edinburgh Border Roofing Monarchs

1 Sam Masters

2 Ryan Fisher

3 Erik Riss

4 Mark Riss

5 Kevin Wolbert

6 Max Clegg

7 Ben Hopwood