SPEEDWAY: Wolverhampton return to full strength for their final matches of the season against local rivals Coventry in the Midland Trophy.
The first leg takes place at Monmore Green tonight, with the return fixture at Brandon on Friday.
Wolves were forced into several changes for their unsuccessful Craven Shield campaign due to a combination of injuries, prior arrangements and compassionate leave. That related to Swedish reserve Magnus Karlsson, who was granted time off British racing in order to be with his partner as she gave birth to the couple's first child — a celebratory occasion for a rider who has endured a difficult second full season in the Elite League.
Coventry are the current holders of the trophy, having won both legs of the event at the end of the 2005 season, but the Bees go into this year's contest with major problems at the tail end of their team.
Both of their declared reserves are injured — Morten Risager has missed most of the second half of the season having broken his leg in June, while Martin Smolinski was left concussed after a fall in practice for last weekend's Czech Golden Helmet.
The German also suffered facial injuries and seems likely to be out of action for the last week of the campaign. Tonight, Bees can call up regular No 8 Troy Batchelor to fill one of their vacancies but will still have to bring in a lower-ranked Premier League rider; on Friday their predicament is worse because Batchelor will be racing for his Premier club, King's Lynn, in the play-off final against Sheffield.
The Brandon club's injury problems mean that Wolves will fancy their chances of finishing an up-and-down season on a high and gaining a little revenge after their play-off chances came to an end with defeat at Coventry last month.
That prompted a war of words between the two promotions because the key match was actually a re-arranged fixture after a rain-off due to a thunderstorm at Coventry in August.
Wolves skipper Peter Karlsson held the opinion that the meeting could still have gone ahead and put forward that view to promoter Chris Van Straaten, but Coventry boss Colin Pratt strongly refuted those suggestions and accused the Bees' rivals of 'whingeing' after their play-off chances had been ended.
The two clubs have been extremely closely-matched throughout the season. Just one race point separated them across their four Elite League clashes so far this year, neither side having managed to win on opposition territory.
Van Straaten said: "It's our last home meeting of the season and I expect a good crowd. It would be a nice way to bring the curtain down on another thrilling season of racing at Monmore Green with a big home win to take to their place for the return, but it won't be easy."
Coventry, the Knockout Cup winners, are also midway through the Craven Shield Final against Eastbourne and Poole. After yesterday's leg at Arlington was postponed, it has been rearranged for tomorrow, with the final leg scheduled for Poole on Wednesday.