NEWS Wednesday 17th April 2019, 7:30pm
After last weekend's opening fixtures, the Staggs Bar Monarchs in time-honoured fashion move into the Championship Shield which starts with a mini-league qualifying section which also features Glasgow, Berwick and Newcastle.
Only the section winners are sure to progress, so a good start is essential on Friday as Monarchs square up to their rivals the Newcastle Diamonds who (after a slowish start to the season) scored an excellent victory over fancied Sheffield last weekend.
Monarchs' team manager Alex Harkess is in no doubt about the importance of the match. He said "Newcastle do have a couple of Armadale specialists in their side, but they are a team that we do have to beat. Nothing can ever be taken for granted but we are expecting the improvement that started on Sunday to continue. We hope to win the home leg and then go to the away leg feeling optimistic, that's what we do, simple as that."
Harkess highlighted two key men for the home and away fixtures: "Ricky Wells was a bit better last Sunday but still not where he should be, and nor was Justin Sedgmen. This weekend's matches are crucial for Sedgmen because there are opponents there that he has to beat."
Last week's visitors Wolverhampton included three former Monarchs' league-winning riders in their side, and this week Newcastle have a different trio with the same distinction – Steve Worrall, Matthew Wethers and Max Clegg.
There's an interesting statistical angle to the fixtures. Having started racing each other in 1948, the teams stand at 89 victories each in the series, with 7 draws. The race points are almost as close, Monarchs in front by just 8241 to 8207!
On Sunday Monarchs race the return fixture at the Newcastle Stadium.
THIS WEEK'S MEETINGS:
Friday 19th April: Staggs Bar Monarchs v Newcastle (Championship Shield), 7:30pm
STAGGS BAR MONARCHS: Ricky Wells (capt.), Justin Sedgmen, Josh Pickering, Joel Andersson, Cameron Heeps, William Lawson, Luke Ruddick.
NEWCASTLE BTS DIAMONDS: Steve Worrall, Simon Lambert, Lasse Bjerre, Matthew Wethers, Thomas Jorgensen, Max Clegg, Danny Phillips.
Sunday 21st April: Newcastle v Staggs Bar Monarchs (Championship Shield), 6:30pm.