Witches are facing four important dates

ON-the-ball Ipswich Evening Star Witches fans will have already earmarked the four most important Elite League dates in the 2007 speedway calendar.It would take a super optimist to predict a top-four Witches finish.

By Elvin King

ON-the-ball Ipswich Evening Star Witches fans will have already earmarked the four most important Elite League dates in the 2007 speedway calendar.

It would take a super optimist to predict a top-four Witches finish. And, on evidence so far, there is little chance of Ipswich filling a mid-table position.

So, the next five months could be taken up squabbling with Oxford and Belle Vue to try and avoid the wooden spoon.

The visits of the Cheetahs on May 17 and August 23 and the Aces on June 7 and August 9 are likely to be the ones that will fashion the Witches season. Big wins will give hope of crucial aggregate bonus points in the return fixtures.

If so, there is the likelihood of avoiding the embarrassment of ending the campaign at the foot of the table twice in five seasons.

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The Elite League is now divided into three groups, with Coventry, Swindon, Peterborough and Poole set to compete for the title - with the possible addition of Reading. Tomorrow, Ipswich are at home to Wolverhampton, a team they are capable of beating if every rider is firing on all cylinders. Wolves are set to be one of the mid-table sides and they give Ipswich a better chance of success than last week's opposition Poole.

The Pirates sent Ipswich tumbling to their biggest home defeat (58-35) since Peterborough won 57-33 in the 2003 wooden spoon campaign.

This was alarming in itself, but worse has been a Mark Loram-less Witches team's failure to put up any sort of fight on their travels against 'ordinary' sides like Lakeside and Reading. Heaven knows what will happen when Ipswich visit one of the top teams.

There could be a succession of 5-1's at Brandon, the Abbey Stadium, East of England Showground and on a second trip to Wimborne Road.

Speedway has become a world of the haves and have nots and Ipswich are unfortunately in the latter category.

A fully fit Loram could have seen them join the 'middle' group but without him it is likely to be another disappointing year at Foxhall.

The likes of newcomer Marcin Rempala need to step up to the mark quickly, and perhaps a switch in team positioning next week might lead to improved performances.

After a winter when they failed to make any significant signings, finishing ahead of Oxford and Belle Vue is the one battle Ipswich can win.

And then it will be a case of wait and see what happens in 2008 - influx of money, Premier League or whatever.

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