Last chance for Witches riders
PUBLISHED: 20:00 23 June 2003 | UPDATED: 14:02 03 March 2010
While the speculation continues of changes to the Witches line-up, the promoters are sticking with their current squad - at least for tonight's visit to Foxhall, of Eastbourne Eagles (start time 7pm).
While the speculation continues of changes to the Witches line-up, the promoters are sticking with their current squad – at least for tonight's visit to Foxhall, of Eastbourne Eagles (start time 7.30pm).
With defeat in their last two home meetings, including an embarrassing annihilation by Peterborough on June 12, director Magda Louis was adamant that changes would be made.
However, while this will almost certainly be the case, the current squad are being offered one last chance to get things right.
It is understood that a work permit application has been logged for former rider Toni Svab and another bad showing tonight could see the Czech Republic rider recalled to the squad in time for their next meeting.
With the axe poised to be brought down on the head of at least one of their side, there is sure to be no lack of effort, as they look to repeat their last performance against the Eagles, on May 29.
That was the last time they enjoyed success, nearly four weeks ago, with an eight point home win the result, despite Adam Shields scoring an immaculate 21- point paid maximum for the Eagles.
Good news for the Witches tonight is that the Australian is unavailable. He has been a virtual ever present in the Eagles squad this season despite 'floating' between the East Sussex outfit and his parent club, the Isle of Wight.
However, when the Isle of Wight had their Knockout Cup clash against Exeter arranged for tonight, it meant that Shields would be heading for Devon instead of Suffolk.
Gary Stead is his floating partner, despite having only sat in for Shields on two previous occasions, both at Belle Vue. Unaware that he would be needed tonight, he had accepted another booking, which has left the Eagles needing to book a Premier League guest, with former Witch Shaun Tacey being brought in.
The loss of Shields for the clash has left Eastbourne promoter Jon Cook accepting that they may have their work cut out to win the match.
He said: "It was a great disappointment when we heard that Adam would not be with us tonight, although with him only having missed two meetings this season, we have had a better fist of the doubling-up position than most. He is a tremendous talent and I can see him wearing the number one race jacket at Eastbourne within a couple of seasons.
"We are currently battling for the final play-off spot, with Wolverhampton, and realistically we may well have to settle for just the bonus point tonight. Obviously we will be looking for the win, although Ipswich has never been a very happy hunting ground for us in the past.
"We will also be using the rider replacement facility for Mark Loram, as he has still not recovered from the broken arm he sustained on Good Friday. We thought about booking a guest, but that only gained us two points on our last visit, so we have plumped for rider replacement instead".
While the Witches are contemplating dropping down into the Premier League next season, Cook feels that there is only one league worth promoting in, saying: "To my mind the Premier is such a drop down in standard and appears quite unpalatable, while the Elite is simply the best there is.
"Ipswich is an Elite League club and it was not many years ago that they were thrashing us all out of sight.
"I understand what John and Magda are going through at the moment and would not want to be critical of them, but I would advise them to be cautious of dropping down.
"It's all well and good asking their fans to vote for what league they want to be in, but if 60 per cent choose Premier League action, does that mean that the other 40 per cent would not turn up if they were not in the top league.
"The Premier is not a step that I would want to consider, it's like comparing banger racing to hot rods.
"Maybe Ipswich were too quick to write themselves off this year, with the admission that they were in for a tough season before it started. If you tell people your burgers are not very good, you cannot expect people to buy them!
"Maybe they have struggled so far, although at the top of their side they have a rider in Scott Nicholls who is the envy of the league and there is not another promoter in the country who would not want to have Scott leading their team. He is such an exciting rider and a huge talent."
No one would dispute Cook's claims, although it is lower down that Ipswich have been having problems.
Paul Hurry has invested in two new engines, ahead of tonight's meeting, as he looks to turn his back on a number of disappointing results. It is his position in the side which would appear to be the most vulnerable, although he is by no means the only rider who has failed to live up to his potential.
Jarek Hampel returns to the side, after missing the defeat by Peterborough because of an international fixture, and as usual he will be partnered by Chris Slabon. Hampel's fellow Pole has been going well this year, although he has suffered with his engines a little of late, although hopefully the break in the Witches' fixtures will have allowed him to freshen up his equipment.
New signing Freddie Eriksson takes his place at four and will be hoping to build on his debut last week. He may have only scored two points, but he got quicker as the night progressed and it looks like he could well be a good signing.
At five, Nicholls will be racing his first meeting for the Witches since his impressive showing in the British Grand Prix at Cardiff last week. He has been trying to catch up on his rest during the week, after a virus robbed him of his strength recently, leaving him struggling to hang on to his machine.
Leigh Lanham takes his place at number six, while Daniel Nermark returns to the side after a recent head injury and begins a spell at reserve.
It is hoped that he can be a trump card in that position after a string of unfortunate crashes has contributed to him dropping his average. To have a rider with the potential of the Swede at reserve could be huge bonus for the Witches, as they look to lift themselves away from the lower end of the table.
David Norris takes his place in the Eastbourne side despite continued problems with his elbow, which caused him to pull out of the meeting on the Eagles' last visit and Dean Barker will be looking to continue his recent good form.
In Joe Screen, Eastbourne have a rider who is always a pleasure to watch, such is his control on a machine and they will be looking for a good score from him tonight, if they are to trouble the Witches.
Former Witch Joonas Kylmakorpi and Swede Peter Ljung complete the Eagles line up in what could be an entertaining clash. Eastbourne won the first leg of this clash 54-36.
Team manager Mike Smillie is hopeful of repeating the success of the 'A' fixture, saying: "I wouldn't mind having a good one tonight. We have a habit of making ordinary teams look a lot better than they actually are on quite a few occasions this year."
Ipswich: Jarek Hampel, Chris Slabon, Paul Hurry, Freddie Eriksson, Scott Nicholls, Leigh Lanham, Daniel Nermark.
Eastbourne: Rider Replacement, David Norris, Dean Barker, Shaun Tacey, Joe Screen, Joonas Kylmakorpi, Peter Ljung.