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Ipswich Witches boss Ritchie Hawkins believes his side are mentally better prepared this season for play-offs

PUBLISHED: 11:42 19 September 2017 | UPDATED: 11:42 19 September 2017

Witches Director of Speedway Chris Louis, left, and team manager Ritchie Hawkins plot the team's KOC final hopes

Witches Director of Speedway Chris Louis, left, and team manager Ritchie Hawkins plot the team's KOC final hopes

© Copyright Stephen Waller

Ipswich Witches team manager, Ritchie Hawkins feels his side are in much better shape mentally, than they were last season when the team reached the play-offs, writes Henry Chard.

Ipswich face Edinburgh in the semi-finals this week, with the first leg at Foxhall on Thursday and the second leg in Scotland the next night.

The team have been virtually guaranteed a play-off spot for a month now, different to last season when they needed points right up to the penultimate league meeting to get in the play-offs, where ironically they met Edinburgh.

“Last year it was pressure, pressure, pressure, every meeting for two months leading up to it,” Hawkins said.

“This year has been fairly comfortable and it has been a case of enjoying ourselves.

“By the time we got to the semi-final last year everyone was mentally shot to bits whereas this year we are fresh mentally and we are in a much better position.

“We have been in great form recently and the atmosphere has been buzzing among the team and we are having a great time.

“We need to keep going on from that into the play-offs and there is no need to change anything because we are in good form. We need to make sure we keep our focus over 30 heats and we cannot afford to slip up or slack off like we did against Edinburgh earlier this season and they punished us.”

Hawkins is hoping for a repeat performance from last year’s play-offs against the Monarchs, that the Witches won, but knows they are in for a tough test over the two legs.

“Edinburgh have the best record of anyone at Foxhall and hopefully we use the defeat to make us sharper but this is a semi-final and whoever we raced was always going to give us a run for our money,” Hawkins added.

“We need to put in the kind of performance we did against them in last season’s play-offs. We were terrific in that home leg and something like that will be great.”

The boss is also hoping a big Foxhall crowd will be the difference as the season reaches its climax.

“No one wants to ride in empty stadiums and if we have a big crowd it will create a good atmosphere and could be the difference between winning and losing,” Hawkins added.

“We might not be the best, but we keep going. It’s an endearing quality we have.”

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