IT’S been a tricky start to life in the top flight for the Somerset Rebels.

After 14 matches, the Rebels have 16 points and sit seventh out of eight in the SGB Premiership table.

But with a couple of weeks’ break from Premiership action to reflect on the season so far, team manager Garry May says he’s looking upwards in the table, not down.

“It’s been more challenging than I expected, in terms of the calibre of riders in the league,” May said.

“We couldn’t get all the riders we wanted [going into the season] so we ran with five from last year.

“We started alright but had several riders off form and lost some close matches - an extra six points would have us right up there in third or fourth.”

In May - following three straight home defeats - the team boss made the hard call to replace the misfiring trio of Rohan Tungate, Paul Starke and Jan Graversen with Richard Lawson, Lewis Kerr and Cameron Heeps.

“It was a tough decision,” May admitted.

“Those riders had won us [promotion] last year but weren’t performing, and you can’t lose too many at home or the season gets away from you.

“Changes were needed, it was hard luck on the other riders, but speedway is a numbers game - it’s all about form and averages.”

The Rebels were immediately rewarded for the gamble, with a dominant victory over Rye House - and Lawson in particular has been on super form as the Somerset side have added wins against Belle Vue Aces and Leicester Lions.

In fact, they’ve done the double over league leaders Belle Vue this season, having previously won the away fixture - a match which May marks as his highlight of the season.

“No other team has won there, but we did with a great performance.

“Another good achievement was beating Leicester in the Knock Out Cup - we had a bit of luck on the night but took it, to make the semi-finals.”

May also praised the Somerset fans for their contribution to the season.

“[Being in] the Premiership has meant a better class of riders turning up [at the Oaktree Arena] every week - the likes of Chris Holder and Jason Doyle.

“It’s great for the spectators, and the racing has been top class.

“The crowds have been awesome.

“We had Somerset fans up at Belle Vue - it’s great to have them follow us round the country to support us.”

The next course on the menu for those supporters is the Championship Pairs (contested between the top two riders from each second tier side) at the Oaktree Arena on Friday, July 21.

Although Somerset are not competing, having won promotion from that league last season, four of their current septet - Josh Grajczonek (Sheffield), Richard Lawson (Glasgow), Charles Wright (Redcar) and Michael Palm Toft (Scunthorpe) - will take part.

The Rebels return to Premiership action on Wednesday, July 26 (away to Poole Pirates), and May is confident the team can push on - especially with Patrick Hougaard and Charles Wright coming back into the fold after time out with injuries.

“I’d like all my riders to stay safe, and I hope to make the playoffs if possible - or at least move up to fifth or sixth,” May said.

“We’d also love to make the cup final - we’re up against a strong side in Wolverhampton, but you never know what might happen.

“It’s a learning process for us this year, a season to stabilise before having a real crack at it in 2018.

“We have a lot of big games coming up in August, so we’re going to go for it!”