Fluidair Power Scunthorpe Scorpions start their Premier League play-off campaign this week - with two meetings of huge significance.
They face an away test at Ipswich on Thursday night and then at home to Somerset Rebels at the Eddie Wright Raceway on Friday evening (7.30pm).
The latter is a mouth-watering clash, pitting the 2012 Premier League champions (Scunthorpe) against the 2013 champions (Somerset).
The Scorpions will head into battle without both skipper Ashley Birks and flying young Australian Ryan Douglas, both sidelined with scaphoid (wrist) injuries.
Scunthorpe will use the rider replacement facility for Douglas in both meetings. With the 21-year-old Australian currently second in the Scorpions’ official Green Sheet averages, the foursome of Nicolai Klindt, David Howe, Josh Auty and Thomas Jorgensen can all take one of Ryan’s rides.
Birks, currently at reserve, is replaced by guests Mark Lemon at Ipswich and Ben Wilson at Scunthorpe.
The Scorpions also make an additional change on Friday evening, with Benji Compton - a former Scunthorpe Scorpions and Saint - coming in for the unavailable Tom Perry, who is riding for Cradley Heath at Coventry in National League KO Cup action on that evening. Compton guested in the last meeting at the Eddie Wright Raceway, the sensational 62-34 demolition of Berwick, and scored paid five.
Friday’s clash with the Somerset Rebels is the biggest meeting at the Eddie Wright Raceway since Monday, October 29, 2012.
Ironically, it was also the Rebels in opposition on that night, as the Scorpions won an epic play-off final by 92-91 on aggregate.
Scunthorpe missed out on a play-off spot in 2013, but are back in the mix this year, and determined to make the most of their chance.
Promoter Rob Godfrey said: “We’ve ended up in the play-off group we wanted to be in; the other group looks a shoe-in for Edinburgh, but we’re in an even group where any one of the three teams can qualify and that suits us.
“Ideally, of course, we’d want a fully fit team of our own riders taking to the track. The recent injuries to Ash & Ryan have been a huge blow, to be honest.
“But we’ve been here before. In 2012, Josh Auty and Nick Morris were injured at a critical time in our play-off campaign. We came through it then and still ended up as champions, and we’d love to do that again.
“In terms of the psychology, I think any pressure is off us, because everyone is now thinking of us as the underdogs in this group. But we’re still going to go out there, with the intention of getting through. We can win this group.”
Godfrey believes race points could prove to be important in a group which could end up with all home wins. All of the regular league matches between the Scorpions, Somerset and Ipswich ended up as victories to the homesters.
“We want to beat Somerset by as many points as possible on Friday”, he said.
“That’s certainly no easy task, but that’s what we need to do. Our whole team is going to be up for it, with Ben Wilson and Benji Compton - both former Scunthorpe riders - needing no introduction to our fans.
“It’s going to be a huge night. Play-off speedway is always full of drama, tension and excitement, and we’re proud to have what is widely acknowledged as one of the best racetracks in the country.
“On Friday night, the Eddie Wright Raceway will be the place to be. It’s a night not to be missed”, concluded Godfrey.