Riss v Starke on the last occasion Image Credit: Ron MacNeill

Tough One Tonight

PREVIEW Friday 11th August 2017, 2:18pm

by Graham Muncie

Another big clash awaits the Parsons Peebles Monarchs this week as we welcome Peterborough back to Armadale in SGB championship action.

The Panthers arrive on a high having won the fours last weekend and that was minus one of their top men Jack Holder. A busy spell lies ahead for the Panthers as they are one of the few teams who seem to have managed a true ‘northern tour’ this year as they head to Berwick and Newcastle respectively after the visit to the Dale.

The Panthers management appear to have given up on reaching the playoffs after the controversial decision to allow Holder to miss multiple matches for them to so he can ride in Poland. This seems like a strange decision as although they are currently 15 points off the playoff positions they still have 16 matches to race and with visits to some of the lower lights in the league to come alongside a further 6 home matches a later run at the playoffs did not seem out of the equation.

This does not affect the line-up this Friday though as the Panthers head north looking to avenge the heavy defeat they suffered at Armadale back in May. Lady luck did not shine on the visitors that night as already missing Ulrich Ostergaard they saw both Holder and Kenneth Hansen crash out after only 1 race for Holder and 2 for Hansen. This meant that the Panthers were left with 4 men to battle against the Monarchs for the majority of the meeting and they duly ran out of steam as the home men romped to 5 heat maximums in a row to finish the match.

Of course since that match (in fact on his way home after the match) Hansen was relieved of his duties and Chris Harris was brought in to spearhead the line-up. We all saw last Friday how strong a force Harris is at this level as he recorded paid 13 points and went unbeaten in his final 3 rides. Add to this the skill level shown in his team ride in heat 11 behind Todd Kurtz and it is clear to see Harris has lost none of his abilities as he goes into the later half of his 30’s. With Harris now having fresh experience of the Armadale track he is sure to be even more of a challenge for our top men this week as the former world number 6 settles into life in the second tier.

Rider replacement operates at number 2 where Bradley Wilson-Dean misses out due to a hand injury. This is a big blow for the Panthers as Wilson-Dean is a classy performer around the Dale racing to 11 points on his previous visit. The Panthers averages mean that the reserves will need to take the majority of his rides and is this is a position the Monarchs will look to exploit.

Another former Somerset rider who has a good Armadale pedigree slots in at number 3 in the form of Paul Starke. Starke is a rider many would love to see in the Blue and Gold although is career has been predominantly based in the south. The Panthers were willing recipients when Somerset moved up to the Premiership this season and Starke has not disappointed adding a point to his average and providing consistent middle order scoring. Starke was another who was on form in the Panthers last visit as he recorded a 9 point score and if he can provide this kind of back-up to the top men again the Monarchs are in for a tough night.

Joining Starke in the middle order is a man who needs very little introduction Justin Sedgmen. We all know the story of how Sedgy joined us at the start of 2014 on a low ebb and at reserve before flourishing into a key man and much loved Monarch over 2 title filled years. This year has not been as kind to Justin with the constant chopping and changing being made at Premiership level meaning he has been dropped by both Belle Vue and Rye House. This would also have been the case in the Championship as Ipswich announced he was to be dropped only to realise they had made a cock up with their maths and they had to go back cap in hand to Justin to resume racing for them. Having recently been named as a track reserve for the Australian GP Justin appears to be regaining form though and we all know how dangerous he can be round our track on his day most notably at the start of this season when he took home the Scottish Open title. Sedgy is also eligible for one of the rider replacement rides so if he repeats his form of that night on Friday the Panthers will have a strong spearhead to launch their challenge from.

Number 5 is the man that all the controversy has been about in the last week or so Jack Holder. Holder has been one of the shining lights in the Championship season as he has untapped the undoubted potential he has. Destined to go on and be a star on the world stage this opportunity appears to be coming a little sooner than originally anticipated as Jack has been a standout for the Torun outfit the past few meetings. Jack has not managed to translate this form into a big score around our circuit yet though which is surprising as he cut his teeth on a tight confines of Plymouth’s St Boniface Arena however with the form and confidence shown by Jack this year this week could be the time that this changes.

The Panthers reserves face a big job on Friday night as they will need to take a minimum of 11 rides between them due to the rider replacement facility and the man expected to shoulder the majority of these may well be senior reserve Simon Lambert. Lambert is one of the most experienced reserves in the league but will admit freely that Armadale is not a track that suits his style. That has not stopped the Boston born man from having strong matches in the past. Lambert was a key man in the Panthers fours win last week so appears to be on top form in what will be a busy weekend for man and machine.

Last but not least is Tom Bacon. Bacon has been one of the success stories of the much maligned fast track rule so far this season and has put almost a point and a half on his starting figure. Bacon impressed on his first ever visit to Armadale earlier in the season recording a well earned paid 5 and a repeat of this would be a great boost to the Panthers this weekend.

So a tough tie lies ahead as the Monarchs look to rebuild confidence round their home track after last weeks defeat to Sheffield. This job will be made all the tougher by the absence of captain and number 1 Sam Masters. Masters is due to go under the knife this week to get his collarbone plated in the hope of reducing the time spent on the side-lines but we will be reliant on guests for the next couple of weeks at least. Stepping in to the void on Friday is Newcastle’s Ludvig Lindgren and we will be hoping for a repeat performance from when Ludvig guested for us last year as he romped to a pair of maximums in a double header.

The rest of the team line up as per normal with a quiet spell for most since last Friday meaning time to reflect and hopefully correct any issues that they felt they had in their machinery. The Blue and Gold will certainly need to be at the top of their game to ensure that the Panthers leave empty handed.

So a strong looking opposition heads to Armadale with some star names in tow looking to put a further dent in the Monarchs playoff hopes. Can we repel them and build back our cushion in 4th spot. There is only place to be to find out and that’s trackside. See you there!