Witches blown away by rampant Robins

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches now face a real battle to try to make the play-offs after a thoroughly disappointing performance at Swindon last night.The Suffolk side crashed by 19 points at Blunsdon in a match where they were never in the hunt.

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches now face a real battle to try to make the play-offs after a thoroughly disappointing performance at Swindon last night.

The Suffolk side crashed by 19 points at Blunsdon in a match where they were never in the hunt.

The whole evening was a complete disaster for the visitors with Chris Louis and Scott Nicholls both caught in traffic problems on the M4 that resulted in them both arriving just minutes before the start.

It set the tone for the night as the Witches were totally blown away by a rampant home side who produced 13 of the 15 heat winners on a slick circuit.

Ipswich skipper Nicholls twisted his knee in his first ride which caused him great pain and saw his confidence shattered throughout. Although he took four rides he was clearly struggling and from a virtuoso effort at Arena Essex 24 hours earlier where he scored 14 points, last night he could only manage three.

However, he wasn't alone in being unable to get among the Swindon top four, who between them scored 50 points in a dominant display that left Ipswich with no answers.

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After a bright start to the season the Suffolk side still sit in the play-off places, but now they have left it all to do with their inability to pick up bonus points one of the main causes of concern.

It is now more than two months since the Witches last won away and those heady nights at Wolverhampton and Belle Vue among others now seem light years away as the Witches struggle to find their form.

The Suffolk side at least have nine home meetings left compared with six away, but the pressure is now on for them not to slip up at Foxhall Stadium and there is also probably a necessity to gain at least one more away victory.

Nicholls' injury is probably the biggest cause for concern as he continues to battle with a knee problem that has so blighted his season so far and his inability to contribute many points did not help the Witches' cause.

Swindon on the other hand were simply awesome. Leigh Adams and David Ruud were both unbeaten on the night while Steve Johnston rattled up five paid victories from his six rides.

On a track that is so big and wide, it was a desperately poor meeting with only one real racing line and gating all important.

Time and time again it was the Robins who came out of the second turn ahead with only Jesper B Jensen and Kim Jansson winning heats.

Danny Bird and Chris Louis both took tactical rides, but they only gained second places as Ipswich toiled.

They got off to the worst possible start with Adams and Ruud passing Hans Andersen in the first race.

Daniel King clashed with Glen Cunningham on the second turn in heat two with the Swindon rider unable to take any more part in the meeting after suffering concussion.

King was excluded although Jansson won the heat, but Ipswich were now up against a side with just five fit riders as the Robins were already using the rider replacement rule.

Johnston comfortably won heat three and early concerns were raised about Nicholls' fitness after he trailed in last in the next having jarred his knee on the first turn.

It was a massive blow to the Suffolk side and although a fully fit skipper would not have altered the result, it was still a confidence- sapping sight to watch him trailing at the back.

Andy Smith won heat five and the Witches soon found themselves nine points down in the next after Swindon's second 5-1 maximum of the evening.

Gating was proving crucial and Johnston won heat seven with Bird having a tactical ride in the next. He got a big nudge from the impressive Ruud at the start although his four-point haul at least brought the Witches back to seven points down.

That was as close as they got, however, and the Robins turned the screw in the second half of the meeting with maximums in heats nine and ten before Andersen fell on the second turn of heat 11.

In the next heat, Jansson gated to the front but then slipped to the back with Jensen winning. Jensen's victory was only the second one of the night for a Witches man and Louis gained four points after a tactical ride in heat 14.

The match and the bonus point had long since gone as Adams and Johnston helped the Robins finish they meeting as they had started with another 5-1 maximum as the Ipswich riders were left scratching their heads on how they could have coped better with the home team's power.

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