Cup shock leaves Witches dangling

Ipswich Witches 41 Oxford Silver Machine 49:THIS must be the last straw. However difficult it may be, Ipswich Evening Star Witches have got to make changes.

By Elvin King

Ipswich Witches 41 Oxford Silver Machine 49

Elite League Knock-Out Cup

THIS must be the last straw. However difficult it may be, Ipswich Evening Star Witches have got to make changes.

This debilitating defeat has left the Suffolk speedway club's season hanging on a thread.

Just one win in the Sky Sports Elite League from nine matches tells its own tale and this result virtually ensures elimination from the Knock-Out Cup at the first hurdle. The Witches will have to improve beyond measure to stand any chance of an aggregate victory in the second leg at Oxford this Friday.

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This will leave just the embryo British League Cup to compete for – and every chance that attendances at Foxhall will dwindle to worrying proportions.

A good Bank Holiday crowd witnessed an interesting enough match, but how many will return on Monday night against Coventry if there is no new face or two to provide fresh optimism? The management may only be able to trade like for like, but something needs to be done.

Gifted 5-1s in the first two races, Ipswich were very much in the driving seat. They had a perfect platform to build a decent first leg lead to take to Oxford.

But with only two Witches riders emerging with any credit, the Silver Machine visitors were able to get back into the match in double quick time, and then steady themselves before surging into a sizeable win with 5-1s in heats 12 and 14.

How the Witches could do with a Craig Boyce in heat 12 and Jeremy Doncaster in heat 14.

Last season both did the business more often than not during this vital part of the match.

These days it is no contest with Ipswich having no one capable of providing any potency at this stage.

Put in simple terms, if skipper Scott Nicholls does not score a maximum Ipswich are not even giving the opposition a contest.

Paul Hurry is the biggest worry and he was again left shaking his head after another poor meeting.

He has played significant parts in championship wins by a number of clubs – including Wolverhampton last year – but his time may be running out at Ipswich.

And the same goes for Tom P Madsen, who appeared to be a wise winter signing and someone who could more than hold his own at reserve.

Danny Bird, who had to rush away to guest for Reading last night, fades away too easily after bright starts, while there was no comparison between the two number fours yesterday.

Sebastian Ulamek showed how valuable an in-form second string can be with an impeccable maximum. Daniel Nermark was unlucky to be squeezed out on the first corner in one race and there is still hope.

But there is plenty of room for improvement. With Jarek Hampel's recent collar bone injury – and five rides in Wiener Neustadt, Austria on Sunday to win a world Under-21 quarter-final – taking a toll in his last two rides this left only Nicholls and Chris Slabon to emerge with any credit.

It looked as though Ipswich could forget their league form and battle through to face Poole in the cup semi-final when they went 10-2 up after two heats.

But with Todd Wiltshire starting 15 metres adrift after touching the tapes in heat one and the impressive Charlie Gjedde being excluded after pushing Madsen into the second bend fence in heat two the lead was gift wrapped.

Ulamek and Boyce gated to a 5-1 in heat three, and then Nicki Pedersen showed his potential with a win over Nicholls in heat four.

Nermark made a determined pass on Travis McGowan – taking Hurry through with him – in the next race, before Pedersen was leading when Jernej Kolenko dislodged a panel.

In the sixth heat re-run, the two Poles made the gate, but Slabon was passed by Pedersen on the fourth bend.

Nicholls was soon up on his feet to confront Boyce after both he and Bird hit the fence on the opening corner of race seven.

Boyce had gone too wide giving Nicholls no room. In the re-run, Nicholls – forced to switch to his second bike – had no answer to Ulamek.

Slabon gave a faultless exhibition to win heat eight, but with Madsen a bad last Ipswich were already looking beaten.

Boyce forced Hampel wide on the entry to the first turn of heat ten as Oxford levelled, and although Nicholls won heat 11 Bird was unable to hold a third place handed to him when Wiltshire made a big error on the fourth bend.

Boyce could not hide his delight as he crossed the line to win heat 12, with Gjedde's splendid move on the third and fourth bends earning him second place.

A fence panel was knocked down on the second lap of heat 13, but the race continued with Nicholls

collecting his second win. Ulamek was always going to win heat 14, and Gjedde followed him home after

diving between both Ipswich men on the fourth bend.

Both Nicholls and Slabon passed Wiltshire in the final heat, but with Pedersen winning Oxford have surely done more than enough to end Ipswich's cup dreams.

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