Scott eyes a double

SCOTT Nicholls, captain of Ipswich Evening Star Witches, is confident his side can now do the double as he looks forward to a Knock-Out Cup semi-final and the Elite League play-offs.

By Elvin King

SCOTT Nicholls, captain of Ipswich Evening Star Witches, is confident his side can now do the double as he looks forward to a Knock-Out Cup semi-final and the Elite League play-offs.

“There is no reason why we should not fight our way through to the cup final and the league play-off final,” claimed Nicholls

“And if we do we are likely to meet Poole in both. We are good enough to beat them on aggregate in both competitions.”

Nicholls' confidence is based on a new-found team spirit that has leapt into the Witches camp.

Rider-manager Chris Louis wrote in his Evening Star column last Wednesday that the side had better buck up quickly or reflect on a year of under-achievement.

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The riders obviously took notice as since then a desire has returned to the camp, which bodes well for the remaining weeks of the season.

Forgotten are the spats between Nicholls and fellow Grand Prix rider Hans Andersen and the four-month run of ten consecutive away defeats.

It was only last Monday that Ipswich were meandering along what looked like a cul-de-sac,

failing to lift their away doom and gloom and going down by nine points at Peterborough.

Since then they have showed character to beat a fired-up Arena-Essex side for the aggregate bonus point at Foxhall Stadium and won a crucial league match at Oxford and this emphatic cup success over Eastbourne.

“I think certain members of the team now realise how important team spirit is,” added Nicholls, who led from the front as usual at a blustery Arlington Stadium on Saturday night.

Dozens of Witches fans offered their support from the terraces as Andersen and man of the match Kim Jansson knocked the stuffing out of a weakened home side with two 5-1s in the opening five heats.

With a nine-point lead from the first leg last March, Ipswich were always in the driving seat after that against an Eagles side that badly missed their injured number one Dave Norris.

Original replacement Joe Screen injured a foot on Friday and Eastbourne asset Dean Barker came in as a guest. Barker, who will ride against Ipswich in the semi-final for Arena-Essex, is struggling for form and although paid for seven points at Foxhall on Thursday he was gifted most of them.

On Saturday, the only Witch he beat was Daniel King in heat six. In contrast, 22-year-old Jansson was only beaten by world champion Nicki Pedersen and the Swede played a big part in the away win.

Jansson has suffered too many times from unnecessary falls this summer, but he changed frames on Saturday after convincing himself that his other ones are bent.

Ipswich's new-found spirit showed a number of times on the first two bends after their superior gating had given them an advantage from the tapes.

Andersen and Jansson got Ipswich off to the perfect start, putting Eastbourne 14 points behind on

aggregate after just one heat.

Trevor Harding then did well to beat his King's Lynn colleague Andrew Allott in the next race and the young Aussie has now featured in three of Ipswich's away wins.

Joonas Kylmakorpi had a torrid night and helped the Witches cause enormously, suffering an engine problem when third in heat three.

Nicholls was pushed wide on the first turn and took three laps to catch up and pass Allott for second place in heat four, before Andersen and Jansson gated to a 5-1 in heat five.

Ipswich had gained control, and they went eight points ahead in the ninth race when Kylmakorpi lasted ten yards. Barker wore the white and black helmet in the following race to show Eastbourne's desperation - and he duly came third behind Jesper B Jensen and Chris Louis.

Pedersen fared much better when he had a tactical ride in the next heat, and when Tomas Topinka won heat 12 after replacing the tape-touching Allott - and Kylmakorpi eventually came to life for second place - the outcome of the tie was delayed.

But not for long, with Nicholls beating Pedersen after a determined first lap in heat 13.

The squad system appears to have died away for some clubs, with Eastbourne using Topinka and Allott, both King's Lynn riders with no connection with them.

The Eagles will argue that they had squad members riding in the Rye House v Isle of Wight match, but the rules are still being abused.

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