Two days could set tone for season

IT maybe early in the speedway season, but make no bones about it, the next 48 hours will keep either Ipswich Evening Star Witches or Oxford's seasons alive.

By Mike Bacon

IT maybe early in the speedway season, but make no bones about it, the next 48 hours will keep either Ipswich Evening Star Witches or Oxford's seasons alive.

It may sound a bit dramatic, but quite simply unless both sides up their game considerably in the months ahead, the KO Cup is both side's only realistic hope of any silverware this season.

And even that is going to be difficult.

The Witches and Cheetahs have made unimpressive starts to their seasons, neither helped by injuries.

Ipswich have lost Mark Loram for the year and have yet to win an Elite League meeting, while the Cheetahs have made hard work of their opening five meetings, winning only one, admittedly with a full side.

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Since then however the team has taken a real battering on the track in more ways than one.

Coventry thrashed them at Cowley in front of the Sky cameras and Ales Dryml then suffered a broken collar bone, while former Witch, Pepe Protasiewicz, injured his knee in a crash on Sunday while riding for Zielona Gora in Poland, leaving Cheetahs owner Colin Horton to describe the Easter weekend as disastrous, with Dryml out for three weeks and Protasiewicz for two.

So the Witches are not going to have a better chance of a home win and more importantly they have a real chance of an aggregate victory to progress further in this year's KO Cup competition.

Scott Nicholls is guesting for Ipswich in place of Loram, at Foxhall tonight, while David Norris is Loram's replacement at Oxford.

Nicholls' Coventry team-mate Rory Schlein guests for Protasiewicz tonight, while Peterborough's Niels-Kristian Iversen is the Pole's replacement at Cowley.

Oxford will use rider replacement for Dryml both nights, with every rider in their team able to have an extra ride.

All in all it is a tie both sides will think, and will want, to win.

Witches team manager Mike Smillie said: “The cup gives each rider the opportunity to progress and earn at least two more meetings to ride in. Oxford have Jesper (Jensen) who is genuinely heat leader class at Foxhall.

“We however, have Robert (Miskowiak) who enjoys the Cowley track and Tobi (Kroner) who used to ride for them. I am sure that the aggregate score will be close.”

Tonight's teams

Ipswich: 1 S Nicholls, 2 K Jansson, 3 C Louis, 4 M Rempala, 5 R Miskowiak, 6 Z Suchecki, 7 T Kroner

Oxford: 1 J Jensen, 2 A Smith, 3 R/R for Ales Dryml, 4 S Johnston, 5 R Schlein, 6 F Eriksson, 7 E Andersson

n Ipswich Evening Star Witches asset Tomasz Gollob, pictured, is devoting the 2007 speedway season to winning the world title.

The Polish number one, who starred in the Witches' treble-winning 1998 campaign, said: “I am devoting my whole life to the Grand Prix this campaign.

“I have one dream left in my sporting career having never won the world championship title.

“I have decided to give it one more try to devote my whole life to my Grand Prix campaign and I promise you will see a fighting Gollob again.”

Recognised as one of the best riders never to win speedway's top prize, Gollob finished eighth in the 2006 GP series.

He concentrates on riding in Poland and Sweden these days and celebrated his 36th birthday yesterday.