Image Credit: Jack Cupido

It All Starts Now

PREVIEW Friday 15th April 2022, 11:21am

by Graham Muncie

After the appetiser that was the Devils vs Bullets last weekend, we move onto the main course tonight as the What the Fork Monarchs welcome the Berwick Bandits to Armadale in a tough looking encounter.

Consistency has been key for the Bandits line-up in recent years but after just missing out on the playoffs year on year the management down in the Borders decided it was time for a change and only 3 of the 2021 Bandits return in 2022 with a new powerful spearhead looking to lead the Bandits to glory.

Former world number 6 Chris Harris has been brought in to bring steel to the big heat 13 and 15s and ably backed up by Ricky Wells the Bandits now have a real punch at the top end.

This has not led to any weakening further down the line though as a mix of youth and experience look to provide the backup. Leon Flint was probably the breakout star of British Speedway last year and will look to keep his ascendency going by taking the step to heat leader this year.

Multiple time league winners Ty Proctor and Theo PIjper provide the second-string strength with Proctor in particular looking to rebuild his love for the sport and get back to his former free scoring self.

This solid 1-5 also allows for strength at the bottom end with Jye Etheridge starting the year as the highest averaged reserve in the league and with Kyle Bickley showing his liking for Armadale in that Devils Bullets encounter 7 days ago there appears to be no weak link in the Bandits chain.

Add in to that the level of Armadale experience that the likes of Wells, Pijper and Harris have, and you can see why the Bandits faithful will head up the A1 full of confidence.

Looking to send them back to Bandit land empty handed is the new look What the Fork Monarchs, like the visitors only 3 of the 2021 septet have been retained in the form of our heat leading Aussie trio Sam Masters, Josh Pickering and Kye Thomson. The latter looking to build on a tremendous debut season while for Masters and Pickering it will be a case of more of the same as they were both comfortably towards the top of the Championship averages last year.

Elsewhere the top 5 is made up of newcomers Paco Castagna and Lasse Fredriksen. Castagna is no stranger to the Dale having had numerous visits with Birmingham in previous years as for Fredriksen it is 3rd time the charm after covid and then Brexit put paid to the Norwegian donning the Blue and Gold the past 2 years.

Returning to the Monarchs fold after a previous spell back in 2019 is James Sarjeant, the Sheffield born racer expected to be a keyman as he takes on the senior reserve role. Alongside 'Sarj' is another new Aussie in the form of Jacob Hook, Hook looking forward to his first foray in team speedway has certainly set himself up well for the year ahead riding on Josh Grajczonek machinery and with practice spells under his belt at Armadale and Redcar already after a winter of riding back home he will look to hit the ground running and add to the litany of men from down under who have made their name in the sport with the Monarchs.

So, two evenly balanced sides both looking to take the points in what is the start of an Easter feast of speedway for Monarchs fans with trips to Berwick and Newcastle to come over the next couple of days also and a strong start would go a long way to building confidence as they look to end a recent trophy drought.

Tapes fly at 7.30pm with tickets still available alongside the ability to pay at the gate, for those unable to attend then like all fixtures from Armadale the match will be live streamed on EMTV.

As we like to say Friday night is speedway night, and speedway is back!