Former glamour teams meet in Manchester

THERE was a time when Belle Vue and Ipswich were the two greatest names in world speedway, with a clash between the two titans a mouth-watering prospect.

By Mike Bacon

THERE was a time when Belle Vue and Ipswich were the two greatest names in world speedway, with a clash between the two titans a mouth-watering prospect.

Sadly those days have long gone. And while the likes of Coventry, Reading, Peterborough and Swindon continue their dominance of British Speedway, the Aces and the Witches are now among the poor relations, certainly of this season's 2007 Elite League season.

With 16 League titles between them, Belle Vue and Ipswich have a terrific past, but that is just about it - the past - indeed it was 1993 when the Aces last won the League and 1998 for the Witches.

Tonight's encounter in Manchester is a basement battle - no more - with both sides already having no chance of reaching the play-offs, although the Witches are at least still in the knock-out cup.

Belle Vue were knocked out of that by Arena Essex Lakeside last week after initially holding a 12-point lead in the meeting.

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It was a disappointing result and has left promoter and former rider Chris Morton insisting the club will give their riders, including struggling Ryan Fisher and Kaj Laukkanen a chance to sort out their problems.

Morton explained: “It's so frustrating watching Ryan because he's giving us everything he's got.

“He's such a racer and tried so hard at Eastbourne only to come away with only one point and a bonus. He deserved more and it wasn't for the first time this season that had happened.

“We are waiting anxiously for that good score to come because it would give his confidence such a boost and hopefully that will be against Ipswich. But we know we can't keep waiting for it to happen.

“Ryan is desperate to succeed but we don't need desperation. Perhaps he needs to pull back a bit and relax more when he's racing. But I know that's not an easy thing to do.

Tonight's fixture offers the Aces a good chance to land their third Elite League win of the season and the Witches their second which would provide a much-needed confidence booster for either club.

But Morton warned his side: “We certainly won't be making any assumptions on the basis that Ipswich have been struggling.

“We've got to go into the match with the right attitude because it's extremely important that we win convincingly. I want us to take control of the match and look like we mean to keep it.”

The Witches have booked Aussie Adam Shields as a guest replacement for Mark Loram. It could be a good move by the Witches' management as Shields scored 19 for his club, Arena Essex, in last week's Knockout Cup match at Kirkmanshulme Lane.

The Manchester track has had a tremendous amount of water on it and with a stock car meeting at the weekend, there has been little chance for work on it so far.

More rain would apparently leave the meeting very much in doubt.

Tonight's teams

Belle Vue: S Stead, J Wright, S Stead, K Doolan, K Laukkanen, R Fisher, A Skornicki.

Ipswich: A Shields, K Jansson, C Louis, Z Suchecki, R Miskowiak, M Rempala, T Kroner.