PREVIEW Friday 12th April 2019, 12:00pm
After what feels like the longest winter in as long as I can remember we are finally ready to hear the bikes roar once again.
What a way to start as well as the Staggs Bar Monarchs take on a very strong visiting Wolverhampton with the Red Box Property Trophy up for grabs.
Wolves will bring the majority of their heavily tipped Premiership septet north with only Scott Nicholls and Nick Morris missing, this leaves a formidable looking line-up not least due to the Armadale pedigree within it.
Leading the way for the Wolves will be 2 league winning Monarchs legends in the form of Sam Masters and Rory Schlein. There is not much left to say about what those pair achieved for the Monarchs and both are still regular visitors scoring freely each occasion.
Main back up for the top 2 is expected to come from Kyle Howarth. Howarth in particular is looking for a bounce back year after a disappointing season by his standards in 2018. Most will remember his performances at the Dale in 2017 with league winning Sheffield that year as Howarth raced to 13 points on both his visits, early indications are that 2019 will be a return to this type of form and he will sure to be a challenge for our top men.
At reserve Peter Adams brings the powerful combo of Ashley Morris and Nathan Greaves, again riders that big things are expected for this year. Morris started last year on fire and it looked like it would be his break through year in the sport, this form levelled off a little but Morris once again is looking to kick on this year and at still only 24 there is time for Morris to shine. Greaves had a very disappointing year in 2018 through no fault of his own missing out on a team place early before being snapped up by Glasgow. This spell with the Tigers was short lived after a horrible looking crash ended his season. So far Greaves has made a promising start to this year though including a paid 11 score at Newcastle.
While there is an abundance of talent in the visiting side it may be though that most of the Monarchs faithful's attention will be on a man that has yet to take to the Armadale track in the form of American champion Luke Becker. If things had gone another way then Becker may now be lining up for his second year as a Monarch but it was not to be and now we will get to see what could have been.
So what a challenge awaits our Staggs Bar Monarchs as we take to the track for the first time as a septet in 2019, many of the team have already been in action with Ricky, Cameron, Justin and Luke all having been involved in competitive action. Joel, Josh and William also enjoyed multiple laps at Armadale last Friday so all should be set and raring to go.
As has been previewed elsewhere there are many key men in the Monarchs team this year, while Ricky Wells will no doubt look after himself at no1 as one of the top performers in the league the battle for the number 2 heat leader slot behind him looks intriguing. Cameron Heeps starts the season at number 5 and his early season form for Ipswich in the Premiership has been very encouraging including a maximum at home to Kings Lynn last week. Justin Sedgmen will be celebrating his 100th Monarchs match this evening and comes in on a handy looking average; the Monarchs and Justin himself are looking to get back to the form he showed in his previous spell in the all conquering 2014 and 2015 teams. Josh Pickering will also be looking to carry on the upward trajectory his career has been on since he first set foot on Scottish soil back in 2017, a 1.5 point increase in his average was just rewards for his efforts last year and a similar improvement this year would truly propel Josh into this heat leader slot.
Elsewhere backup will come from Joel Andersson looking to build on a promising first year with the Monarchs and off course our reserve pair of William Lawson and Luke Ruddick. Isn't it great to see 2 Scots back in the Monarchs line-up once again.
So an exciting year lies ahead and what a way to start it with Friday's fixture sure to enthral. Remember also that that the match supports Cancer Research UK with a collection being taken with funds going to the charity.
As always and for the first time this year all that is left for me to say is that if you want to see all the action there is only one place to be and that is trackside.
See you there!