PREVIEW Friday 19th April 2019, 11:00am
After a weekend to blow of the cobwebs it's into the real deal for the Staggs Bar Monarchs this weekend as we welcome Newcastle to Armadale in the Championship Shield group stages.
As has become traditional the Championship Shield is split into geographical groups with Berwick and Glasgow making up the remaining teams in the Northern section.
The Monarchs are the last to start their campaign with Berwick already having ridden 4 of their matches and the Diamonds and Tigers two. While that leaves us with ground to make up it does also mean we have the advantage of knowing what is required and the minimum target will be to take maximum home points and also pick something up on the road and that needs to start this weekend.
The Diamonds have had a relatively poor start to the season with heavy defeats home and away to Berwick meaning they have 0 points to their name in the Championship shield so far. A far better performance was had at home to heavily tipped Sheffield on Sunday as they ran out victors and this is the type of form they will look to bring up the A1 with them. With the type of Armadale pedigree in the Diamonds team then nothing can be taking for granted.
The Diamonds have no less than 3 former league winning Monarchs in their line-up starting at number 1 with Stevie Worrall, Worrall looking to show yet again he is one of the top men in the league after a year blighted by a broken leg in 2018. Backup to Worrall comes in the form of Danes Thomas Jorgensen and Lasse Bjerre, both of these Nordic stars have had their moments at Armadale and Jorgensen in particular is one of the fastest riders in the sport when he hits the front. The experienced Simon Lambert was a late addition to the Diamonds pre season after Nike Lunna quit the team meaning a double change Victor Palovaara being particularly unlucky to see himself resigned to the sidelines. Lambert is a canny performer although he will be the first to admit that the Dale is not particularly suited to his style. Joining Lambert in the second string positions is another of the Monarchs legends Matty Wethers still a canny performer in what is remarkably his 17th year in British speedway.
The reserves for the Diamonds are a position they hope is where they will come up trumps with Max Clegg and Danny Phillips. Clegg is another who needs no introduction to the Monarchs faithful after several years at the club and with an Armadale average in excess of 6 points in his time he will be a real sting in the tail for the visitors. Phillips is another who has suffered more than his fair share of injuries in the past few years and the hope is with his experience he could be among the stronger of the 2 point riders this year, although only time will tell.
For the home men it will very much be a case of dusting themselves down after the defeat to Wolves last week, of course that was an interleague challenge and we will not face a team with that sort of strength again. The team showed their mettle in only going down by 8 points at Scunny last Sunday and this is more like the type of performance we will be looking for with a couple of riders yet to kick into gear this year. That cannot be said of Cameron Heeps who has hit double figures in both his matches so far and with Josh Pickering not far behind the challenge set at the start of the season of backing up Ricky Wells is well on. Justin will have gained sharpness from riding 3 times in as many days last weekend and if he can jump out the start better he will take some beating while there were encouraging signs from Luke at home last week and from Willie in the later stages of the meeting at Scunny so all in all many good signs for the year ahead.
All of this means nothing when written down though and what matters is the performances on track, can the Monarchs step up again and taste victory for the first time this season, there is only one place to be to find out and that's trackside.