Smillie: We have to win

"THIS is a must-win meeting."That was the verdict of Ipswich team manager Mike Smillie, as the Witches prepared to entertain the Swindon Robins at Foxhall Stadium tonight in a SkyBet Elite League clash (7.30pm).

"THIS is a must-win meeting."

That was the verdict of Ipswich team manager Mike Smillie, as the Witches prepared to entertain the Swindon Robins at Foxhall Stadium tonight in a SkyBet Elite League clash (7.30pm).

The Suffolk side's early-season momentum has come to a shuddering halt of late, after losses at Peterborough, Poole, Coventry and at home to Oxford in recent weeks.

From a position of early-season strength they have now been dragged back into the play-off chase and face another stern test in front of the television cameras tonight.

Smillie knows defeat cannot be considered. "It is very important we beat Swindon," he said. "The only good thing we have going for us is that others around us are dropping points, everyone apart from Poole that is.

"It is a really balanced league and Swindon will fancy their chances against us and know if they do snatch victory, then they will also be back in play-off contention.

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"We have lost our last four meetings, but three of them have been away from home, so it is vital we get back to winning ways tonight."

Witches star Chris Louis shares Smillie's view.

"You only have to look at the names on our team sheet to see what a side we have. Unfortunately we are now in the middle of the Grand Prix rounds and I think it is having a bit of a toll on Hans Andersen especially, while Scott Nicholls is still recovering from an awful injury.

"All teams go through these stages, but we will come out of it a better side. And if we can stay crash-free from now until the end of the season I still say that if we are in the play-offs we will be the side to beat."

Certainly defeat cannot be considered this evening if Ipswich are hopeful of being in the play-offs come September.

The Witches' overall record is still as good as any in a league that is proving close and well balanced this season.

Only league leaders Poole have yet to suffer a home defeat, although ironically it was bottom-placed Coventry who came closet to upsetting the Dorset club at Wimborne Road a month ago.

Tonight Swindon come to Foxhall having won four, drawn one and lost one of their last six Elite League meetings.

They are beginning to show a bit of form after suffering a crippling broken leg injury to Charlie Gjedde and then a devastating loss after the death of Pole Rafal Kurmanski.

Led by Leigh Adams, the Robins will remember their last visit to Foxhall back in April, where the Witches produced by far their best home performance of the season, winning by 26 points. However Witches skipper Nicholls' heat 13 crash – that led to him missing a month of the campaign – marred the night.

Ipswich are at full strength tonight, with the Foxhall management hoping Kim Jansson came through two meetings in Sweden at the weekend after hurting his shoulder against Oxford ten days ago.

Victory tonight would move Ipswich back into third place in the table.

One plus for many Witches fans tonight will be the sight of the old collapsible wooden fence back up after recent problems with the air fence.

As the Evening Star revealed on Friday, Ipswich have been given permission to revert to the wooden fence while the manufacturers of the controversial Airtek fence look at ways of improving efficiency and rider safety.

Swindon have just signed Peter Ljung from Eastbourne, while they will use rider replacement for the injured Gjedde.

Teams

Ipswich: 1 H Andersen, 2 D Bird, 3 J B Jensen, 4 C Louis, 5 S Nicholls, 6 D King, 7 K Jansson.

Swindon: 1 L Adams, 2 P Ljung, 3 A Smith, 4 R/R, 5 S Johnston, 6 O Allen, 7 G Cunningham

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