Smillie: We're on a must-win mission

IPSWICH Witches will be on a mission when they ride at Oxford in the Sky Sports Elite League tonight.Team manager Mike Smillie said: “If we don't pick up a victory we can wave goodbye to any hopes of qualifying for the play-offs.

By Elvin King

IPSWICH Witches will be on a mission when they ride at Oxford in the Sky Sports Elite League tonight.

Team manager Mike Smillie said: “If we don't pick up a victory we can wave goodbye to any hopes of qualifying for the play-offs.”

The Witches won at Sandy Lane on their previous visit in March, but they face a re-juvenated Cheetahs side that have collected some good results in recent weeks.

They are second from bottom in the table - ahead of Arena-Essex - and Smillie sees it as the best chance to boost Ipswich's dream of a top-four finish.

“We have seven league meetings left and expect to win our two at home against Coventry and Eastbourne,” said Smillie.

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“And to keep in the title hunt we need to gain some away success to make up ground, and Oxford on paper is the easiest fixture left on our travels.”

Ipswich's other away meetings are at Swindon next Monday and Poole next Wednesday, plus trips in September to Poole and Wolverhampton.

Ipswich have only won twice away in the league this year - Arena-Essex was their other success - and they will be told by the management to get revved up tonight.

They are programmed to track a full-strength side with reserve Daniel King as possible trump card having been paid for ten points on his last visit to Oxford.

Tobi Kroner, King's bottom-end partner, rode for the Cheetahs last season and knows the Oxford track as well as any other in England apart from Foxhall.

Mark Loram blew an engine in his opening ride on Ipswich's last visit and scored just four points. If he continues his recent superb form he can give the Witches a lift.

Cheetahs promoter Aaron Lanney is confident his side can cope with a fully fired- up Ipswich.

He said: “I am confident that we will beat them. And with just nine points to make up to win the aggregate bonus point we can claim all three points.”

Swede Eric Andersson is expected to recover from the back injuries sustained in a crash in his home land last Thursday and ride at reserve.

Eastbourne's Adam Shields will guest for the injured Ales Dryml having scored six points in the defeat at Belle Vue on Monday.

Tonight's line-ups

Oxford: T Wiltshire, D Watt, D Howe, A Skornicki, A Shields, L Tomicek, E Andersson.

Ipswich: P Protasiewicz, K Jansson, R Miskowiak, C Louis, M Loram, D King, T Kroner.

Former Ipswich rider, and England number one, Scott Nicholls broke a collar bone in a crash at Coventry on Monday.

He hit the deck on the first bend of heat 15 after tangling with Ryan Sullivan and Hans Andersen.

Nicholls will be hoping to be fit for at least two of the final three Grand Prix meetings to cement a top-eight finish - and automatic qualification next year.

He will struggle to make the Czech Republic GP this Saturday in Prague.

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