Smillie won't fear Wolves

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches supremo Mike Smillie is certain his side will not throw away their chance of being crowned Sky Bet Elite League champions.

By Elvin King

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches supremo Mike Smillie is certain his side will not throw away their chance of being crowned Sky Bet Elite League champions.

Team manager Smillie has a big part to play tonight when the Witches ride at Wolverhampton in a one-legged play-off semi-final.

How he shuffles his troops around will have a large bearing on who wins the war, and goes on to face Poole Pirates in a two-legged final to see who will be crowned 2004 champions.

“We are not afraid of riding away from home,” said Smillie today. “Wolves will look upon it as a big advantage, but it means little to us.

“Of course, riding at Foxhall Stadium would have been nice as we have not been beaten at home since we lost to Oxford in early June.

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“But Monmore Green holds no fears for our riders and we have outscored Wolves on their own track - winning by six points in the A fixture and losing by five on our B visit.”

Smillie, who pulled the strings admirably in 1998 when he managed the Witches to the treble, went on: “Wolves have beaten us at Foxhall this summer - so why should we feel threatened about giving up home advantage?”

If Ipswich had finished second in the league instead of third they would have been at home tonight.

“I am happy enough. Third place was a fair indication of the progress we have made over the last 12 months or so,” added Smillie. “Tonight is going to be our biggest match of the season - so far.

“And we are equipped to come out on top with our top four hopefully outscoring their top four. There will be pressure on our bottom end as Wolves have strength in depth with their number two heat leader David Howe riding on a seven-point average.

“Wolves will have a big partisan following but if our fans can make their presence felt it will give the lads a big boost.”

Smillie suffered as much as anybody when Ipswich had their worst-ever season and finished bottom of the table with just six wins in 2003.

Why have things altered so dramatically? “You can put it down to two words,” answered Smillie.

“Chris Louis. He had a big input into the make-up of the side, and has been riding brilliantly since returning to the track after serious injury.”