Coaching last week, riding this Image Credit: Steven Fruzynski

Stellar Monarchs look to climb the league

PREVIEW Thursday 6th June 2024, 10:05pm

by Jim Milton

  Edinburgh Monarchs

Last Friday the Stellar Edinburgh Monarchs kick-started their season in style with a timely return to form against their oldest rivals, the Glasgow Tigers.

Without a point to their name after the opening three Championship fixtures, the focus turned to the BSN Series and that final qualifying tie in which any win at all would have secured them a place in the semi-finals.

A dramatic golden heat victory at Ashfield on the 10th of May, undoubtedly the result of the season up to that point, had placed the Monarchs in a real position of strength to dispose of Cami Brown's men although, being a derby, no one was under any illusion that the task at hand would be in any way straightforward. The Tigers were as capable as anyone at springing a result at Armadale, particularly in light of the Monarchs current run of form.

Glasgow, whose own introduction to the 2024 campaign might be described as less befitting their existing status of title-holders than one might have expected, came to West Lothian at full strength after Jack Smith's stay as deputy for the suspended Lee Complin had been made permanent.

For the Monarchs, No.1 Josh Pickering remained an injury absentee so, as he had at Oxford two days earlier, Workington's Craig Cook filled the gap at the top of the order.

The crumbling collapse towards the end of their defeat at Sandy Lane betrayed a vulnerability within the Edinburgh ranks which drove home the importance of getting off to a good start this Friday. And in truth, that start against the Tigers couldn't have been brighter thanks to storming 5-1s from Kye and Paco in Heats 3 and 5.

For Glasgow, there would be no way back from that. Even the deployment of Chris Harris as a tactical substitute in Heat 7 was quickly thwarted by a fine Justin Sedgmen effort as a lengthy succession of 3-3s maintained a heathy winning margin all the way to the finish.

Cookie and Sedgy's superb Heat 13 5-1 capped an excellent evening's work as we find ourselves a potential 60 heats from lifting silverware for the fist time since 2015.

Scunthorpe have been confirmed as our semi-final opponents (dates to be advised) Although certainly a tough task in prospect, defeating the Lincolnshire outfit is certainly not beyond us.

This Friday, however, it's back to the more sobering business of getting those first Championship points on the board. It's also a quick return to doing battle with the Oxford Cheetahs whose 18-point victory at Crowley nine days ago would suggest that gaining the aggregate bonus point on this occasion might be something of a tall order.

Who knows though? A repeat of the determination displayed our last time out and anything is possible.

Edinburgh will be boosted by the return of Josh Pickering and his presence will almost certainly be needed against the colossal Cheetahs' might of Sam Masters and Scotty Nicholls. Elsewhere, broken rib victim Max James will be replaced by the Academy's Max Perry while Oxford continue to be without Henry Atkins.

One Monarch who will be especially keen to continue his recent return to form is Paco Castagna whose GP Challenge qualification success, quickly followed by last Friday's magnificent 14 point ( from five rides) masterclass, only served to remind the world what a special talent we have at No.4.

Consistency will be key now though, not just for the skipper but the whole team as they enter a vital phase of the season."