Search
Kings of Anglia Issue 10 Magazine Offer

Rock bottom to top of the table... Ipswich Witches turn it round

PUBLISHED: 11:05 27 May 2019 | UPDATED: 11:05 27 May 2019

David Bellego (blue helmet) and Danny King celebrate more Witches success this season with a heat victory. It's been a wonderful start to the 2019 season for Ipswich.    Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.com

David Bellego (blue helmet) and Danny King celebrate more Witches success this season with a heat victory. It's been a wonderful start to the 2019 season for Ipswich. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

© Copyright Stephen Waller

When Ipswich Witches beat Wolverhampton Wolves at Foxhall recently they went to the top of the Premiership. MIKE BACON takes a look at how they got there... and what's ahead.

Witches team manager Ritchie Hawkins.    Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comWitches team manager Ritchie Hawkins. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

On Saturday, June 18, 2016, Ipswich Witches rode at Berwick in a Championship clash.

They lost 33-60 and with it dropped to the bottom of the table - in the second tier of speedway in Britain.

It was an ignominious position for the club who have a history in the sport to die for. Indeed it was little more than a disgrace.

From being one of the biggest and most successful speedway clubs on the planet, especially in the '70s and '80s, as well as an all-conquering 1998 side - to also-rans.

Ipswich's Krystian Pieszczek (red helmet) and Lynn's Ty Proctor bumping elbows on the way from the tapes.    Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comIpswich's Krystian Pieszczek (red helmet) and Lynn's Ty Proctor bumping elbows on the way from the tapes. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

A low point.

However, almost three years later and the Witches are flying high once more.

It's been a journey.

The signing of Ben Barker just before that Berwick debacle in 2016 was a big step as the confidence-drained Witches went on a fine run that saw them go from the bottom of that Championship table to the play-ofs where they lost to Somerset in the semi-finals.

Witches No.1 Richard Lawson.    Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comWitches No.1 Richard Lawson. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

One year later and another good signing, this time Rory Schlein, saw the Witches enjoy their best season for a decade as the Foxhall team just missed out on silverware in heart-breaking circumstances to Sheffield in the play-off final and Peterborough in the KO Cup final.

But the seeds had been sewn.

The crowds had flocked to watch a winning side.

An injury-ravaged 2018 where 'guests' were one of the highest appearance makers for the Witches was a frustration, but the emergence of young Drew Kemp and the improved form of Cameron Heeps, gave room for optimism.

A change at the top in 2019 saw Keith Chapman take over as owner and the Witches move up into the Premiership. What a decision that has proved.

After beating Wolverhampton Wolves at Foxhall recently the Witches went to the top of the table. Crowds are up and entertainment is high.

Bottom of the Championship to top of the Premiership in three years.

A healthy team spirit and a team boss in Ritchie Hawkins who has sound man-management skills, is reaping rewards. And the fans love it.

David Bellego is pushed away ahead of the parade.    Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comDavid Bellego is pushed away ahead of the parade. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

The Witches are back where most in the sport would say they should be, competing against sides they have spent most of their history competing against.

Back at the top table... Long may it continue.

This season has seen the team win four of their five Premiership clashes so far...

Jake Allen ahead of Bradley Wilson-Dean in heat four at Peterborough where the Witches won their first away meeting of the season   Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comJake Allen ahead of Bradley Wilson-Dean in heat four at Peterborough where the Witches won their first away meeting of the season Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Thursday, April 18

v BELLE VUE (H)

Won 52-38

From the left, Richard Lawson, Robert Lambert, Krystian Pieszczek and Erik Riss at the tapes ahead of heat five at Foxhall v King's Lynn.    Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comFrom the left, Richard Lawson, Robert Lambert, Krystian Pieszczek and Erik Riss at the tapes ahead of heat five at Foxhall v King's Lynn. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Scorers Cameron Heeps 12+1, Richard Lawson 11+2, Krystian Pieszczek 8, Danny King 6+2, Rory Schlein (g) 6+1, Jake Allen 5+3, David Bellego 4+1.

This was a crucial meeting for the Witches.

With two challenge meetings and two Supporters' Cup meetings behind them, this was the real deal, their first meeting back in the Premiership - they didn't disappoint.

With No.1 Chris Harris nursing an injury, Rory Schlein was called up as a guest and performed solidly enough.

Cameron Heeps and Danny King in discussion in the pits.    Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comCameron Heeps and Danny King in discussion in the pits. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Belle Vue started with a 5-1 heat advantage, but the Witches soon got into their stride and by heat eight were 12 up.

Cameron Heeps and Richard Lawson were the main men and the Witches were up and running.

Monday, April 29

v WOLVES (A)

Lost 40-50

King 10+2, Allen 10, Heeps 9, Pieszczek 5+1, Harris 3+1, Lawson 3, Bellego 0

Six points up after four heats the Witches left Monmore Green disappointed not to even pick up a losing bonus point.

Chris Harris and Kyle Howarth battle in the opening heat, Ipswich v Wolves.   Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comChris Harris and Kyle Howarth battle in the opening heat, Ipswich v Wolves. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Wolves fought back well in the middle of the meeting and Heeps took a nasty fall after clashing with home man Scott Nicholls.

Harris, David Bellego and Lawson all failed to impress, although Danny King was good value for his paid 12.

You may also want to watch:

But this was a missed opportunity.

Monday, May 6

v KING'S LYNN (H)

Won 48-42

Scorers: Lawson 12+1, Bellego 10, Allen 9+1, King 6+1, Heeps 6+1, Pieszczek 4+1, Harris 1

A big Bank Holiday crowd wondered if the Witches could see off their Norfolk rivals as they had done so easily in the Supporters' Cup a few weeks earlier.

The answer was, yes! And how the Foxhall fans loved it.

David Bellego enjoyed his best meeting for the Witches and Lawson continued to impress. Harris only notched a point, but such was the Witches strength in depth, they never looked like losing.

Monday, May 13

v PETERBOROUGH (A)

Won 51-39

Lawson 9+2, Allen 9, Harris 9, Heeps 8+2, King 8, Pieszczek 4+1, Bellego 4+1

One look at the Witches scorers tells the story of this meeting.

The team had been built for solidity and they didn't disappoint at the East of England Arena, having this meeting wrapped up with a heat to go.

Just to make sure of all four points, the Witches hammered home a 5-1 in heat 15 and became the first side in the Premiership to win away from home in the 2019 campaign as they shot to the top of the table.

Monday, May 20

v WOLVES (H)

Won 46-44

Heeps 15+1, King 12+1, Lawson 7, Pieszczek 6+3, Harris 4+1, Josh Bates (g) 2, Bellego 0

A Cameron Heeps-inspired Witches got the better of the Wolves after a topsy-turvy tussle at Foxhall.

Six times the lead changed between the two sides who were sitting top and second but still Ipswich came out victors, thanks to a brave heat 15 ride by King.

Not a classic performance from Ritchie Hawkins' men... but when you can win when not at your best....

UPCOMING FIXTURES

v BELLE VUE (A)

Premiership

Monday, June 3

Big test this for the Witches on the huge Manchester bowl.

A great race circuit and one most of the Witches know well. If they can nick a losing bonus point that won't be too bad. But they'll be going for the jugular and why not?

Prediction: 48-42 to Belle Vue.

v PETERBOROUGH (H)

Premiership

Thursday, June 6

The Panthers have made a couple of changes of late with Scott Nicholls back in their fold. But this has got to be about the Witches. Their home form so far this season has been solid. Hit hard from the off!

Prediction: 50-40 to Witches

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Ipswich Star

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists