Hans lets riding do the talking
IPSWICH Evening Star Witches took the full 15 heats before they achieved their objective at Foxhall Stadium last night.They needed to win by more than six points to not only beat Arena-Essex but also claim the aggregate bonus point in this Sky Bet Elite League fixture.
By Elvin King
IPSWICH Evening Star Witches took the full 15 heats before they achieved their objective at Foxhall Stadium last night.
They needed to win by more than six points to not only beat Arena-Essex but also claim the aggregate bonus point in this Sky Bet Elite League fixture.
For much of the match the home side struggled to gain the initiative and with two races left the result of the match - let alone the bonus point - hung in the balance.
Scott Nicholls was the main man for the Witches, playing a captain's role and dropping just one point, while Chris Louis and Kim Jansson did the business with a well-timed 5-1 in the penultimate race.
But it was the efforts from the back of Hans Andersen that were to have the biggest impact on the night.
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The Dane, who still feels that the world is against him after the criticism he received at the end of the world cup final, did not take part in the pre-meeting parade around the stock car track.
And he failed to do a lap of honour with Nicholls after the pair had notched the 4-2 in the final race that lifted Ipswich to within four points of third-placed Eastbourne.
Not for the first time he let his riding on the track do the talking for him and on a night of few passes it was the 23-year-old who made two so-vital contributions.
In heat 13, with Ipswich hanging on to a two-point lead, Andersen was baulked on the first two bends and was faced with a last place.
This would have levelled the scores and surely ended Ipswich's hopes of the extra point at least.
But Andersen found a way beyond Russian Roman Povazhny on the second lap to follow home Nicholls in a race won by the admirable Mark Loram.
Both Louis and Jansson then made good first turns to settle the Ipswich nerves with a maximum heat
advantage that they badly needed.
This won the match for the Witches, but left the aggregate scores level. Povazhny was pushed wide by Andersen and crashed into the first bend fence in heat 15. Before the re-run there was fun and games with visiting team manager Ronnie Russell clashing with track staff and taking a rake in which to work on gate two that was being used by Loram.
Amid a sea of bodies, Russell was determined to follow the lead of the Ipswich riders and prepare the start position to make for a quicker getaway for his man.
It looked like turning nasty for a minute or two, but once the dust had settled it was Nicholls who made the break from the inside.
Andersen again found himself at the back, but he stayed calm, weighed up the situation and roared inside Povazhny on the third lap to bring the crowd to its feet as the 4-2 gave Ipswich three precious points.
Ipswich gained only one heat advantage in the first seven races and although every rider bar Daniel King had at least one race unbeaten by an opponent there was insufficient back-up to build up a lead.
The home side had a lot of work to do after going four points down in heat five on a night when Jesper B Jensen and Danny Bird took two races to get started and Louis was caught pulling his bike back when the tapes went up in heat five.
Jensen slid off when third on the third lap of heat three and King suffered the first of two falls on the first bend of heat seven.
Bird and Jansson raced to a timely 5-1 in heat eight to level the scores, and Bird joined forces with Andersen to put Ipswich into the lead for the first time in heat ten.
But Arena refused to lie down and for the second time King fell before remounting in heat 11. Jansson added to the frustration when he passed Dean Barker on the second lap of heat 12 to go third, but then spun off on the next turn.
Then came the last three races that may have determined the outcome of the Witches' 2004 season.