Andersen leads final push

HANS Andersen led Ipswich into the Sky Bet Elite League Knock-Out Cup final to ensure a thrilling climax to a memorable season for The Evening Star Witches.

By Elvin King

HANS Andersen led Ipswich into the Sky Bet Elite League Knock-Out Cup final to ensure a thrilling climax to a memorable season for The Evening Star Witches.

The Dane was named rider of the night after dropping just one point as the home side completed a comfortable aggregate victory over Arena-Essex at Foxhall Stadium last night.

Andersen, 23, received a wonderful reception from another big crowd and responded with a series of wheelies to set the stage for the two-legged final against league champions-elect Poole in a fornight.

With Andersen in this mood, the Witches will fancy their chances of toppling the Pirates and with the rest of the team also fired up it should make for a sensational speedway meeting at Foxhall on Thursday, October 21.

The first leg of the final will be run at Poole the previous night.

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“We have the team to beat Poole,” said Andersen, who is set to stay with the Witches in 2005 after both he and the club confirmed this was in their plans.

“And a victory would tell the whole world that we would have beaten them in the final of the league play-off as well if we had not lost in such agonising fashion to Wolves in the semi-final.”

Since that astonishing meeting at Monmore Green, the Witches have not ridden at Foxhall so many of those who watched that thriller on television were attracted to witness skipper Scott Nicholls and his team in action.

It was not the best meeting of the season by any means, but Ipswich turned in a businesslike display and never looked like losing out on a final place after their 46-43 first leg win the previous night.

Nicholls was alongside Andersen in heat 13 when he suffered a piston problem, which left that consistent pairing of Chris Louis and Jesper B Jensen to follow Andersen in the score chart.

It was coldest night at Foxhall since March and there was always a chance that the Hammers would spring a surprise.

They came to Ipswich boosted by having Adam Shields as a guest for Dean Barker, who was suffering from a stomach upset.

They may both be in the same band, but the Australian's average is around two points higher than Barker's and he scored a 21-point maximum at Foxhall two seasons ago.

And if the likes of ex-Ipswich riders Leigh Lanham and Paul Hurry had also fired they could have spoiled the Witches party, but Ipswich handled the situation efficiently enough.

Danny Bird slid off on the third bend of heat one before Polish champion Grzegorz Walasek flew round the outside of the first two turns to win heat two.

Although there may not have been very much passing there was plenty of skilful action taking place on the first two bends, and Jensen and Louis settled any Ipswich nerves with a 5-1 from the gate in heat three.

Jensen made an error to allow Mark Loram to pass on the third lap of heat five in a race that turned back the clock with Louis then holding off his long-term sparring partner Loram.

Shields flew from the tapes to win heat seven, before Bird and Kim Jansson were in a 5-1 position when Hurry fell on the first turn. In the re-run, Jansson made a mistake on the first corner and then just failed to make up the ground on Walasek.

Ipswich remained in control and they went eight points ahead in heat ten, which enabled Loram to double his points when used as a tactical rider in the following race.

This was one of only two away heat advantages of the night with Nicholls chasing Loram tooth and nail and Daniel King doing well to hold off Hurry.

Jensen motored around the outside for victory in race 12, and Andersen confirmed Ipswich's final place with his win in heat 13.

Louis then found the quickest first bend speed of the night to take the lead - and win - heat 14, with the emerging King having the satisfaction of beating Walasek for third place.

Andersen rounded off the night satisfactory with a fine victory in the last race.