Tigers will provide tough test for Rye House this weekend as the men from Hoddesdon take on Simon Stead and his Sheffield team

The Silver Ski Rockets will be aiming for more track time than last weekend – when they managed just half a match from two scheduled fixtures because of the wet weather – as they kick off their main Premier League programme this Saturday with home action against Sheffield (7pm start).

It is an important test for both sides, as the Rockets’ opponents are - to steal from an old song – slowly but surely getting back to where they once belonged.

League Champions in 1999 and 2002, and title runners-up as recently as 2011, the Steel City side has endured one-off-bottom finishes in both 2012 and 2013, but is now heading in the right direction once again under a new promotion, as evidenced by the away wins at Scunthorpe and Redcar that clinched top spot in the League Cup’s Northern group - and with it a place in the competition’s semi-finals.

Leading the Tigers’ charge will be former Grand Prix Wildcard and World Cup Lion Simon Stead, although the Owlerton stalwart can expect strong pressure for his coveted No.1 spot as the season progresses from new addition Ty Procter, who stepped in at the end of April for the unfortunate Adam Roynon.

Also in the visitors’ mix are long-time Ipswich and Lakeside star Leigh Lanham, 2012 Australian U-21 Champion Taylor Poole - who is back in Britain after a year’s absence – and, racing his first full season since 2010 after a 2½ year retirement from the sport, 2004 PLRC winner Andre Compton.

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The Tigers are completed by recently crowned British U-21 titlist Josh Bates and former Leicester Lion Simon Nielsen.

Rye House team manager John Sampford recognises the importance of the fixture as the first in the Rockets’ League programme. “We still have the Knock-Out Cup to look forward to, once we’ve re-arranged the tie, but the league is what all teams will be remembered by, and we’re no different.

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“We want to make the best possible start, because that will set the tone for the following weeks.

“As I’ve said many times before, there are no weak teams in this league, and with two 9 point men (Stead and Procter) and decent back-up, Sheffield can certainly take us to the wire.

“But we’ve got three British Finalists in Edward (Kennett), Steve (Boxall) and Jason (Garrity) who are all doing well, and Luke (Bowen) is settling in nicely in the main body of the team.

“We’ll also have Simon (Lambert) back from his ankle injury after he came through OK last night at Kent.”

Rye House: Luke Bowen, Steve Boxall, Jason Bunyan (captain), Jason Garrity, Simon Lambert, Edward Kennett, Mathieu Tresarrieu

Sheffield: Josh Bates, Andre Compton, Leigh Lanham, Simon Nielsen, Taylor Poole, Ty Procter, Simon Stead (captain).

Saturday’s main 15 heats will be followed by six more, as the Rye House Raiders entertain their Sheffield counterparts in the Midland Development League.

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