Matt Ford believes Chris Harris’s number one experience could prove crucial as the Volvo Cars Poole Pirates look to reach a 70th anniversary SGB Premiership final.
With new averages in force ahead of Monday’s crunch play-off semi-final second leg against Somerset, Harris replaces Brady Kurtz at the top of the Pirates’ septet.
And with Kurtz having carried the weight of the number one race jacket for the whole regulation season, Ford believes a shift in the team could also benefit the Australian.
Ford said: “Brady has done a fantastic job as our number one this season. When I signed him, my intention wasn’t for him to be our number one, as I expected Chris Holder to come in and take on that role.
“Unfortunately, due to Chris not being able to race in England this year, the weight fell on to Brady’s shoulders. It’s a big burden for anyone to be the focal point of a team like that and Brady has handled it really well, but I think people forget that he is still a young lad.
“There’s also the pressure of being a young rider from Australia and everyone wanting to believe that he is the next Darcy Ward. Darcy was a freak of nature in many ways, a true one-off.
“To expect anyone to step into his boots is a huge ask, let alone a rider as young as Brady who is still making his way in the sport.
“I think the change in averages has come at a good time. Bomber is an experienced head who relishes being the main heat leader and I expect him to thrive on the responsibly as he has done previously for Coventry, Peterborough and Rye House.
“Of course, going up against Jason Doyle when he is in the kind of form he is is no easy task but those are the kind of challenges Bomber loves so it will be an intriguing battle in heat one!”
The Pirates go into Monday’s second leg just two points adrift after the Rebels edged a narrow 46-44 win at the Oaktree Arena in the first leg.
The visitors will also go into the clash without Bradley Wilson-Dean, with the New Zealander having gone under knife to remove some metalwork from his shoulder this week.
Rider replacement will operate for the Kiwi, with Jake Allen, Nico Covatti, Aaron Summers and Richard Lawson able to take his outings at Wimborne Road.
Ford added: “We’re two points behind and I would always back us on our own track, but I know Somerset will be revved up for this meeting so we’ll need to be on our game to overcome them.”
Pirates: Chris Harris, Josh Grajczonek, Kacper Woryna, Nicolai Klindt, Brady Kurtz, Richie Worrall, Frederik Jakobsen.
Rebels: Jason Doyle, RR for Bradley Wilson-Dean, Aaron Summers, Richard Lawson, Jack Holder, Jake Allen, Nico Covatti.