Injuries take toll on Witches' opponents

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches have every chance of collecting their second away Elite League victory of the season when they ride at Arena-Essex tonight (start 7.45pm).

By Elvin King

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches have every chance of collecting their second away Elite League victory of the season when they ride at Arena-Essex tonight (start 7.45pm).

The Purfleet-based side have been decimated by injury, and are only expected to track three of their normal side.

Witches asset Mariusz Puszakowski became the latest victim when he broke a leg riding at Poole on Monday.

The Pole crashed in heat four of the Hammers' 66-24 defeat and joins Michael Max, Henning Bager and Paul Hurry on the sidelines tonight.

Puszakowski was trying to go round the outside of Shaun Tacey and ran out of room, catching his footrest in the air fence. He has undergone two operations on a leg that contained a metal plate following a previous break, and is expected to be out of action for some time.

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Max is riding in the Swedish championship tonight, while Bager is out for another week with a shoulder injury. Hurry is not expected back for a month.

On the plus side, Joonas Kylmakorpi will make his Arena return from a broken collar bone if he came through a Swedish League meeting last night.

Arena hope to use Scott Nicholls as a guest, but he was involved in a crash in Poland on Sunday and is doubtful with Saturday's Danish Grand Prix in mind.

Number eight Brent Werner comes in at number six, with a Premier League guest at seven, and both will be busy as the rider replacement facility for Bager means Leigh Lanham and the two reserves are eligible for extra rides.

Arena are positioned just one place above bottom of the table Oxford, and a win tonight would be timely as Ipswich look to enhance their play-off hopes.

To return from the tiny Arena circuit with a defeat against such a depleted side would be a big blow, although the visiting riders will need to improve on the form they produced on their earlier visit.

The A fixture - on Good Friday evening - ended with Piotr Protasiewicz needing to win a run-off to collect the aggregate bonus point following a 49-41 defeat.

Chris Louis scored just five points that night, but he could be the trump card tonight having notched up 13 points while guesting for Wolverhampton in their victory at Purfleet a fortnight ago.

Kim Jansson misses out because of the Swedish Championship, which means extra rides for Louis, Robert Miskowiak and the two reserves. With Jansson's record at Purfleet disappointing his absence might improve Ipswich's chances.

German Tobias Kroner makes his Witches debut, having been signed this week as a replacement for Jan Jaros.

Tonight's line-ups

Arena-Essex: AN Other, rider replacement for H Bager, S Johnston, L Lanham, J Kylmakorpi, B Werner, AN Other.

Ipswich: P Protasiewicz, rider replacement for K Jansson, R Miskowiak, C Louis, M Loram, D King, T Kroner.

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