Super Speedway Sunday as Scunthorpe Scorpions look to clinch league title against Somerset Rebels
The Eddie Wright Raceway in Scunthorpe will play host to its most important ever speedway meeting on Sunday (4pm) as the Henderson Insurance Scunthorpe Scorpions take on the Somerset Rebels in the concluding leg of the play-off final, with the Premier League title at stake.
It's the culmination of the whole Premier League season, which has seen 13 teams from Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland, down to Plymouth in the south-west, doing battle for the league title. After 156 regular Premier League meetings and 12 scheduled play-off group matches, it all comes down to two meetings – at Somerset on Friday and Scunthorpe on Sunday.
It would represent a first league title at this level for either club.
The current incarnation of Scunthorpe Speedway is one of the Premier League’s newest members.
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Current promoter Rob Godfrey brought speedway back to the town of Scunthorpe in 2005 after an absence of twenty years.
A new-purpose built stadium, the Eddie Wright Raceway, was constructed in Normanby Road.
He initially entered the club into the Conference League (the sport’s third tier). With the late Kenny Smith as team manager, the Scorpions won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007, with a fantastic team of youngsters including Tai Woffinden, Josh Auty, Andrew Tully and Richie Dennis.
Scunthorpe were elevated to the Premier League in 2008. Up until this season, the Scorpions were a solid mid-table team.
Rob Godfrey says: “I had a feeling right from the off that the 2012 Scorpions were something a bit special, and could make a genuine Premier League title challenge.
“It’s certainly not been easy, and we’ve had lows as well as highs. But we’ve come through and reached the final.”
Injuries are sadly part and parcel of speedway, and the Scorpions have had their fare of share of these, with skipper David Howe (No 1 at Scunthorpe from 2009 to 2011) having competed in just nine official fixtures for the club in 2012 after a series of injury woes.
At one stage during May and June, the Scorpions suffered eight successive defeats as their League Cup and Knockout Cup hopes came grinding to a halt.
However, the mid-season signings of Nick Morris and Gary Irving turned the Scorpions into a very strong side from 1-to-7, and they won 13 out of last 16 regular league matches to finish second in the table, a single point behind Newcastle.
That momentum was taken into the play-off group stages where crushing home wins against Edinburgh and Workington, plus a priceless away point at Edinburgh were enough to clinch a place in the final.
Godfrey adds: “To me there’s no pressure on the side at the weekend. I consider us to be the underdogs.
“All the pressure is on Somerset, because all the pre-season predictions had them to be up there. We were predicted to finish somewhere in the middle.
“However, we are more than capable of going out there and beating Somerset over two legs. Make no mistakes we want to win the final and take some Premier League silverware.
“It would be fantastic to win the Premier League in just our fifth season at this level.”
There’s no doubt that the two meetings over the weekend are the most important in Scunthorpe’s history, but team manager Richard Hollingsworth insists the approach will be to treat them as normal meetings.
Hollingsworth explains: “We’re not going to change our approach now and put any pressure on the riders.
“We’re just going to treat it like another couple of meetings.
“The riders have been doing a great job for around the last three months, so we don’t need to change anything.
“The lads just have to go out there and race for 30 heats, and then at the end of it, we’ll see if we’ve got more points than Somerset.
“If there’s any luck kicking around, I hope we get our fair share of that.”
Meanwhile, Hollingsworth insists that the club is not satisfied with just reaching the final.
He says: “I wouldn’t be that happy with second place.
“For a long time, Scunthorpe Speedway had the Cinderella tag attached to it. In our previous existence between 1971 and 1985, during which I became a fan, we were nearly always the whipping boys of the league.
“We’ve never finished above fifth (in 1983) at this level before, so expectations tend to be set quite low. But I want to see Scunthorpe to become a force to be reckoned with on a regular basis.
“We’ll be going into the final very much to win it; it won’t be a case of ‘We’re Scunthorpe, so second will be fine.’ We want to win”, Hollingsworth stresses.
He also believes that the Premier League title would be a fitting reward for many at the club; the riders, the supporters, the management and the back-room team.
“To be crowned league champions would be the stuff of dreams, and would be the prize for eight years of hard work by everyone at the club.
“And what would make it even more special, in my book, is that we have not bought the league in any way.
“Rob (Godfrey) runs Scunthorpe Speedway on a sensible budget; we have never broken the bank to try to bring success to the club. It’s just been a lot of hard work.”
Both teams are without two regular riders on Sunday. The Scunthorpe utilise rider replacement for David Howe, while Sam Masters will guest for injured Dane Thomas Jorgensen. Masters rode for Somerset until late August, when he was released by the Rebels, and may have a point to prove to his old club.
With No 1 Jason Doyle ruled out, the Rebels have a fine replacement in Premier League Riders’ Champion Craig Cook. Tom Perry was injured at Dudley on Tuesday, so Lewis Kerr comes into their side at No 7.
Sunday’s Admission Prices: Adult: £16, student/OAP £14, Child (10-16) £5, child (0-9) free (accompanied by paying adult), family ticket £37 (2 adults, 2 Children 10-16). Special souvenir programme: £2.50
Henderson Insurance Scunthorpe Scorpions: 1. Josh Auty, 2. David Howe R/R, 3. Sam Masters (Australia - guest), 4. Ashley Birks, 5. Nick Morris (Australia), 6. Michael Palm Toft (Denmark), 7. Gary Irving.
Somerset Rebels: 1. Craig Cook (guest), 2. Alex Davies (Australia), 3. Jesper B Monberg (Denmark), 4. James Wright, 5. Claus Vissing (Denmark), 6. Kyle Newman, 7. Lewis Kerr.