Scott: There's no hiding place
SKIPPER Scott Nicholls suffered more than most last season.He did his job at the top end of the Ipswich side, but then had to watch as his team-mates let him down as the Evening Star Witches finished bottom of the league with just six victories.
By Elvin King
SKIPPER Scott Nicholls suffered more than most last season.
He did his job at the top end of the Ipswich side, but then had to watch as his team-mates let him down as the Evening Star Witches finished bottom of the league with just six victories.
The 26-year-old did not complain although it hurt his pride to have his Ipswich involvement over by the first week of September 2003.
Now he has a chance to erase those awful memories. Grand Prix star Nicholls will be leading from the front as usual when Ipswich take on Wolverhampton at Monmore Green tonight in the league play-off semi-final.
Poole await the winners to see who will be crowned Sky Bet Elite League 2004 champions.
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And this season Nicholls knows that he can rely on his team-mates giving him support.
Ipswich last won the title in 1998 when Nicholls was a youngster finding his way.
He played his part to the full, but was overshadowed by the likes of Tony Rickardsson, Tomasz Gollob and Chris Louis at the head of the 'Dream Team'.
Now Nicholls has his chance to lead a side - that has enough strength to win silverware this term - to glory.
“We have all got to do our bit and there will be no hiding place for any of us,” said Nicholls.
“Our team spirit is good and we are on a good run of form. I know they are in good form too, but we have won at Wolverhampton already this season and I honestly believe we can do it again.”
The Witches will be well supported with scores of fans making the journey from Suffolk to support their heroes in a one-off meeting.
“We must be consistent as a team. It is no good if one person scores a maximum and no-one else does the business,” added Nicholls, who was riding in the Czechoslovakian Golden Helmet yesterday.
“The pressure is now really on and I think the team that wins this tie will go on and beat Poole in the final.”
The Witches won 48-42 at Monmore in a league meeting in April and for that reason alone they will go into the clash with confidence.
In Jesper B Jensen they have a rider who was with Wolves for five seasons and is still a Wolves club asset. “I can't wait to start,” said Jensen, who missed the B league match that Ipswich lost this year.
“I am really up for it and know how important it is to Ipswich.”
Wolves have not lost a home meeting since mid-June and are unbeaten in nine on their tricky small Monmore Green circuit.
And their confidence is understandably high.
“Ipswich have riders who can ride our track, but so do we. When you look at our recent performances we've been riding very well,” said heat leader David Howe.
“People are making a lot of the fact that they won at our place in April, but things are different now. If I remember correctly the track was bad that night and everything just seemed to go against us and I feel we're a much stronger team now.”
Ipswich will use Paul Pickering at reserve in place of Danny Bird, who is on duty with his Premier League club Reading.
There will be a lot of pressure on the Stoke rider who has not ridden at Wolves for several years, while fellow reserve Daniel King will also have his hands full against free-scoring Adam Skornicki and in-form Chris Neath.
Kim Jansson has proved a trump card for Ipswich many times, and if he can score heavily from the number two berth - and Nicholls, Hans Andersen, a fired up Chris Louis and Jensen can do their stuff - then Ipswich could well be staging the first leg of the two-legged final at Foxhall Stadium next Monday.
Howe has a hand injury picked up at Workington on Saturday night, but is fit to ride. Wolves will track the same side that thrashed hapless Oxford in the quarter-finals last Monday.
Wolverhampton: M Max, F Lindgren, S Ermolenko, Rider replacement, D Howe, C Neath, A Skornicki.
Ipswich: H Andersen, K Jansson, J B Jensen, C Louis, S Nicholls, D King, P Pickering.