Barker’s back for KO Cup semi clash after Witches injury curse strikes again
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Witches boss Ritchie Hawkins has called upon former Foxhall favourite Ben Barker for the first leg of the Championship Knockout Cup semi-final with Sheffield Tigers after Rory Schlein was ruled out for the season.
Australian ace Schlein crashed out of the SGB Championship Pairs meeting in Sheffield on Sunday night, suffering whiplash, concussion, as well as soft tissue damage to his wrist and hand.
It’s yet another injury set-back in what has been a luckless season on that front, with Kyle Newman, Nico Covatti, Danyon Humes, Cameron Heaps, Justin Sedgmen and Connor Mountain having all been sidelined at various stages.
Barker will guest in the KO Cup semi-final first leg at Sheffield on Thursday night, with rider replacement in operation for Sedgmen.
It will then be rider replacement for Schlein in Friday’s home leg, with Mason Campton in for Sedgmen as the Witches look to gain revenge for their recent 99-81 aggregate Championship Play-Off Final defeat to the Tigers.
“Losing Rory is a big blow for us because he’s been a key part of the side,” admitted Hawkins. “It’s only Danny (King) left now who hasn’t been out I think and even he’s been racing with a shoulder injury since June.
“We’ve dealt with injuries before though and we’ll deal with it again. Usually when you see a team have an awful run of injuries they end up finishing bottom and have an awful season, but even with everything that has gone on we’ve still had a great year.
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“Everyone has pulled together so much. I think we’ve used it as motivation to keep fighting.”
With Redcar Bears rider Barker having had spells with the Witches in 2013 and 2016, Hawkins said: “You know what you’re getting with Ben. He’s a rider that loves being part of Ipswich and I know he’ll give us everything. He was the quickest rider in the Pairs on Sunday and goes well around that track.
“Mason, meanwhile, has ridden for us a few times this season and has fitted in really well.”
He added: “To do what we’ve done in these circumstances this season has been unbelievable, but to finish the season without a trophy to show for our efforts would be a real shame.
“If we cut out some of the silly mistakes we made in the Play-Off Final then we’ve got a chance against Sheffield.”