Nicholls return to haunt Blues

Arena Essex 57Ipswich Witches 39SCOTT Nicholls returned to haunt his old club with a breathtaking performance at Arena Essex last night.The Evening Star Witches had no answer to their flying former captain, who has joined Coventry for a £36,000 fee.

Arena Essex 57

Ipswich Witches 39

SCOTT Nicholls returned to haunt his old club with a breathtaking performance at Arena Essex last night.

The Evening Star Witches had no answer to their flying former captain, who has joined Coventry for a £36,000 fee. He was riding for Arena as a guest replacement for the injured Mark Loram and rattled up a 12-point maximum as the home side won easily 57-39.

The Hammers collected all three points, including the bonus point, as the majority of the Witches failed to get to grips with the tight Purfleet bowl, although admittedly Karol Baran, Pepe Protasiewicz and Robert Miskowiak were on their first visits to the track.

But while Baran and Protasiewicz had meetings to forget, the youngest member of the Polish trio, Miskowiak, produced another stunning effort, trailing in last in his first race, before blasting to three heat wins and 18 points. It is to his great credit he works tracks out so quickly and he once again showed maturity above his years, on what was a disappointing performance from many in the Foxhall Heath side.

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Only Hans Andersen offered Miskowiak any kind of support and these two were badly let down by their team-mates' inability to dial themselves in to a track that is notoriously tricky, but always rides smoothly.

The home side rattled up 5-1 maximums at will and only recorded three last places compared to the Witches' 12.

The Witches are back at Arena in a month's time in the second leg of the Knock-Out Cup and there will have to be a tremendous improvement from certain individuals, or a massive home victory in the first leg, if they hope to stay in that competition.

Andersen made a lightning start off gate two to hold off the attentions of both Hammers in a shared first race and Miskowiak and Daniel King made good starts in the next but both drifted wide coming out of turn two as Piotr Swist and Josh Larsen nipped through for the home side's first maximum of the night.

The Witches were showing weaknesses in technique on the difficult Purfleet circuit and Kim Jansson and Baran were on the receiving end of another Arena maximum in the next. Nicholls rode a fine first lap around the outside of the fast-starting Miskowiak, but with Protasiewicz trailing at the back, the visitors were already ten points behind.

Witches team manager Mike Smillie put Andersen out for a tactical ride as early as heat five but Roman Povazhny fell after just 25 yards and referee Mick Bates called an unsatisfactory start.

In the re-run, Jansson got into all sorts of problems on turn two and straightened up, hitting the fence head on. He bounced back on to the track and was nothing more than winded, with the air fence proving a saviour for the young Swede.

At the third time of asking, Andersen gated to a comfortable victory as Ipswich got a 6-3 to pull the scores back to 20-13.

Protasiewicz was having a torrid time and despite passing Paul Hurry, who made a mess of turn three on lap one, Hurry got him back with a fine outside pass two laps later.

The Witches' woeful start was only interrupted as Miskowiak won heat eight with Andersen trying desperately to get round the outside. Andersen and Hurry went hard into the third turn with Andersen relegated to the back and the pair exchanged words afterwards.

It was turning into a rout now as the Hammers recorded their fifth maximum 5-1 in nine races and Hurry rode a terrific race to pass Miskowiak in heat 10.

Miskowiak and Andersen led Nicholls in heat 11, but Nicholls rode a terrific race to pass first Andersen and then Miskowiak in thrilling fashion, as Arena had their first last place finish.

King was excluded at the tapes and started 15 metres back in heat 12 as the Arena romp continued and Nicholls produced a stunning piece of speedway in heat 13.

Protasiewicz and Andersen had made the start and led for two laps before Nicholls roared up the inside of Andersen and then round the outside of Protasiewicz to clinch his fourth race win of the night.

Baran took a nasty tumble as heat 14 was stopped for an unsatisfactory start and in the re-run, Miskowiak shot across from the outside to use his tactical ride to the full and claim six points.

The visitors finished with a bang with their only two riders of the night, Miskowiak and Andersen gating to a comfortable 5-1 victory - but it was all too little too late.