PREVIEW Friday 25th June 2021, 11:00am
Two victories within the space of 24 hours maintained the Monarchs' unbeaten record in the Championship as well as hoisting them up to third in the table, level on points with Redcar and with less fixtures fulfilled than top two Glasgow and Scunthorpe.
Both wins were close-run affairs settled late in the day in Edinburgh's favour. Right from the start against Leicester at home, the gap between the teams stayed within five points throughout and, with two heats to go, the Monarch's lead had shrunk to a single point A couple of 5-1s forced the issue though with Joshie Pickering taking both chequered flags to round off a superb top-scoring performance. Captain Sam Masters joined his countryman on double-figures as did reserve William Lawson whose 10+1 haul from five rides again underlines his importance to the team.
All a bit harsh on the Lions who certainly didn't deserve to leave Armadale without any reward at all, but you have to hand it to Sam and the boys for their resilience and stubborn refusal to accept defeat.
Success against Eastbourne the next day marked a Monarchs' first – a first ever victory at Arlington Stadium. It must also rate as one of their most impressive displays of the season so far, although it's true the Eagles were missing both Drew Kemp and skipper Lewis Kerr.
Save for an Eagles 5-1 in Heat 9 that levelled the score at 27-27, the visitors led throughout although the final outcome remained in doubt up until the very last heat.
All of which sets us up nicely for this weekend's hotly anticipated visit of the Scunthorpe Attis Scorpions. Sitting second in the Championship table with 12 points from five meetings, just three points ahead of ourselves on an outing less, Scunny have certainly made a mockery of early forecasts predicting mid-table mediocrity.
And, reading through their line-up, it's perhaps not too difficult to see why. Danny Ayers' tragic death together with the departures of Stefan Nielsen, Ben Barker, Jake Allen, and Ryan Kinsley meant that, from 2019's septet of riders, only Simon Lambert and the evergreen Josh Auty remained in the Lincolnshire club's thinking for 2021.
It's sad to report, however, that the much-loved Auty will sit the rest of the season out with Adam Ellis putting pen to paper as an eleventh-hour replacement. With a 9.74 CMA, Ellis will start at No.1.
The remaining Scunthorpe heat-leaders have something of a Scandinavian flavour to them. Dane Thomas Jorgensen rode most recently for Newcastle but can also claim plenty of previous experience round the Eddie Wright Raceway as a fully paid-up Scorpion from 2011 to 2014. The 28-year-old will double up this term with King's Lynn in the Premiership.
Hailing from Kuusankoski in Finland, Tero Aarnio is another with a historical association with the club, having ridden for them from 2010 to 2013 and again in 2017. Now, Tero's latest move from the Birmingham Brummies sets the scene for a third Scorpions spell in which consistency will be crucial to both his own and the team's success. Like fellow heat-leader, Jorgensen, the 37-year-old is a veteran of Scunthorpe's 2012 Premier League title-winning team.
Middle order responsibility will fall to Simon Lambert and Monarchs' asset Theo Pijper, riders embarrassingly rich in both experience and ability. Lambert is yet another with Scunthorpe on his C.V. more than once and the 32-year-old Lincolnshire lad will be one to watch on Friday.
41-year-old Theo Pijper is the Scorpions senior statesman having competed in British speedway since 2002. Following five years with Edinburgh, the Dutch national went on to serve a number of teams, among them Wolverhampton, Berwick, Swindon, Mildenhall, Glasgow, Redcar and, of course, Scunthorpe. A league winner with both Scottish clubs (Edinburgh 2003 and Glasgow 2011), Theo has clocked up more than 200 meetings at our own Lothian arena.
Under-19 commitments prohibit the appearance of Rising Star Jordan Palin, and his reserve slot will be taken by guest and one-time Monarch, Connor Coles, who impressed with nine points for the Belle Vue Colts in their NDL visit to Armadale last Saturday.
Partnering Coles will be Aussie Josh MacDonald whose UK career began with Sheffield in 2019. A mixture of Covid and the Rising Star initiative put paid to a move to Poole last term so the 24-year-old will be keen to repay the faith and loyalty afforded him by Scorpions owner Rob Godfrey and team boss Dave Peet.
So, a tough fixture looks instore, want to see if the What the Fork Monarchs can carry on their winning ways then tickets are still available from the Monarchs homepage, for those unable to attend as all matches at Armadale are the match will be livestreamed and passes can be purchased from the EMTV link on the main page also.