Huge double blow for Ipswich Witches
- Credit: Taylor Lanning
Ipswich Witches' play-off hopes received a double blow in what turned out to be a disastrous night for Ritchie Hawkins' team.
Firstly, the Suffolk side were well beaten 35-55 at Belle Vue, despite battling gamely for much of the first half of the meeting, and then then news came through that their nearest rivals for the fourth and final play-off place, Sheffield Tigers, had won handsomely at King's Lynn.
Both results couldn't have been much worse and although the Witches were 24-all after eight heats in Manchester, three successive 5-1 maximums in heats 9, 10 and 11, killed off their hopes of victory as they completely fell apart at the death against the Aces.
It's not the first time the Witches had fallen apart in second halves of meetings.
"To be level after heat eight and then to fall apart so heavily is disappointing," said Ipswich team boss Ritchie Hawkins.
"We gave ourselves a great chance and didn't make the most of it. With Sheffield winning as well our play-off hopes are hanging by a thread.
"Our riders tinkered with set-ups and got it wrong. Trying to get that bit extra they lost a bit extra."
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So, did Hawkins regret changing the riding order?
"No, we changed to compensate R/R at one and hopefully take advantage of a strong pairing at 3 and 4. But Craig Cook and Danny King didn't work. It they'd stayed at three and five I don't think it would have made any difference to the result.
"We were outsiders going into that meeting and I don't regret changing the order."
The Witches were well beaten on their last visit to the National Speedway Stadium and they used rider replacement at No.1 for Jason Crump instead of a guest. It made little difference, Crump's rides accrued just five points.
The Aces got off to the best possible start, gating to a 5-1 victory in the opener, with Craig Cook taking Crump's rider replacement ride. But the Witches hit back immediately, Drew Kemp gating well and clamping Tom Brennan, as Paul Starke flew round the outside to level the scores up at 6-6.
The Witches went ahead in heat three, Danny King and Cook sandwiching Charles Wright into the opening turn and flying away for a maximum. It was four maximums in the first four races as the Aces hit straight back in a meeting that was going one way then the other.
King and Steve Worrall had a good battle that the Aces man won in a shared heat five, before Jake Allen was excluded in the next for moving at the start. That resulted in a 5-1 for the home side who re-took the lead, before Brady Kurtz and King had a great scrap in a shared heat seven.
The Witches weren't laying down however and Anders Rowe and Starke levelled the match up with yet another maximum. But then the meeting turned on its head as the Aces hammered home three 5-1 maximums without reply.
It was a huge blow to the Witches who were now starring defeat in the face, defeat that came in the race after the interval, as Steve Worrall lowered King's colours, while Cook was at the back. King was the Witches top man and deserved his 14-point haul.
The Witches entertain Sheffield on Thursday night, the Tigers now level on points with the Witches, but with four meetings in hand.
Belle Vue: D Bewley 15, R Worrall 7+3, S Worrall 9+1, C Wright 4+1, B Kurtz 11+2, T Brennan 4+1, S Lambert 5.
Ipswich: R/R, A Rowe 5+1, C Cook 5+1, D King 14+1, J Allen 2, D Kemp 3, P Starke 6+2.