PREVIEW Friday 27th April 2018, 12:24pm
A big effort is required if the Staggs Bar Monarchs are to bounce back from last weekends double defeat to Glasgow with an outside chance of progression to the semi finals of the Championship Shield still a possibility.
For that to happen the Monarchs will more than likely need to take maximum points from there remaining matches starting with the visit of the Berwick Bandits to Armadale this week.
The Bandits have had an up and down start to the season with a hard fought home victory against the Tigers being followed up by a shock home defeat to Newcastle but like the Monarchs they still have their eyes set on qualification and victory at the Dale could go a long way towards that.
The Bandits have a mix of experience and youth in a solid looking line-up and there does not appear to be any weak links especially around Armadale where they have a wealth of experience.
This experience starts at number 1 where Aaron Summers has made the move after spending the last few years with Glasgow. This is a big year for ‘Spud’ as he looks to show he is still a Championship number 1 after a couple of years in the shadows of the likes of Richie Worrall and Richard Lawson at Ashfield and as a former league wining Monarch he certainly knows the quickest way around the Dale.
Further experience comes in the form of Kevin Doolan at number 2. Doolan is one of the most popular men in British Speedway having successfully hosted his testimonial last year and is still a classy performer. A self confessed lover of the Armadale track sitting in a second string position Doolan could well be a trump card for the Bandits.
On the exact opposite of the experience scale is number 3 John Lidman. Like our own Joel Andersson, Lidman is a Swedish import to the Championship with no prior UK experience. Lidman is also finding the going a little tough so far but has shown flashes that there is undoubted talent and ability there not least as he looked set to win his first race at Ashfield the other week before coming off. Lidman will be given time to settle though and the Bandits do have a strong pedigree in bringing riders over from Sweden before.
David Howe makes up the engine room of the team having returned from retirement successfully last year. Another very popular rider around the country it is great to see him back and enjoying his speedway as much as ever before. Howe is another noted Armadale performer having tasted British under 21 glory all the way back in 2000 round our circuit. Howe also appears to be on an artificially low average having spent last year at a heatleader position and a strong season would go a long way to solidifying the line-up.
The star man for the Bandits so far this season has been Danish sensation Nikolaj Busk-Jakobsen. The former world under 21 finalist was seen as somewhat of a coup when he joined the Bandits mid season last year before crashing out in his first meeting. The former Rye House man is making up for lost time so far this year with a string of impressive performances and with a 10 point score in his one and only Armadale appearance our heat leaders will have their hands full with Busk Jakobsen.
Alongside a strength in depth team comes a strong pair of reserves for the Bandits although it could say neither would class Armadale as their favourite place to race. In saying that former Monarch Jye Etheridge rides in at 6 and as always he will head to the Dale with a point to prove after his ill feted spell with the Monarchs back in 2016. The young Aussie has put that behind him now and appears to have made a home for himself with at Berwick where the wider sweeping turns appear to suite his style.
Joining Jye at reserve is Austrian racer Dany Gappmaier. Gappmaier is now in his 3rd year with the Bandits Gappmaier is somewhat of a cult hero in the Borders and can be nigh on unbeatable round his home shale. That form has not always translated away from Shielfield particularly on the tight confines of the Dale although he does have a paid 10 score on his resume in the past if he repeats that performance tonight then the Monarchs could well be in trouble.
Speaking of the Staggs Bar Monarchs there are a couple of changes to the line-up this week as we look to make amends for those defeats to the Tigers last weekend.
Firstly we welcome Thomas Jorgensen in as a guest replacement for Erik who rides in Croatia this weekend in a European Championship qualifier. Unfortunately there was no way to get Erik from the Dale on Friday to Gorican on Saturday so guest replacement rules kicked in. Further to that there is a change in the riding order as we switch Max and Joel about. Max has proved himself adapt at being able to hold his own so far this year and it is hoped that the move will kick-start Joel’s season in what has been a baptism of fire for our new Swede so far.
So a tough looking fixture lies ahead in what is a must win match for Staggs Bar Monarchs if we are to qualify for the semi finals.
Will tonight be the first step on us getting there? As always there is only one place to be to find out and that is the Dale.
See you there!!!