Witches celebrate Swede success

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches edged home in this nip-and-tuck affair against Eastbourne Eagles at Foxhall last night, to claim two welcome Elite League points.

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches edged home in this nip-and-tuck affair against Eastbourne Eagles at Foxhall last night, to claim two welcome Elite League points.

No more than four points separated the struggling Witches against a weakened Eastbourne outfit throughout and as a spectacle it was a hugely entertaining encounter.

With Sky Sports in town it was a sparse crowd who turned out, although those that did venture to the heath were treated to some quality racing.

Many expected the Witches to easily have the upper hand over what in effect was a four-man Eagles side, although mainly due to the efforts of former Witches Joonas Kylmakorpi and David Norris, the visitors would not give in.

With three heats to go the Witches even trailed by four points and yet another defeat at Foxhall looked on the cards for the beleaguered home side.

However, Jarek Hampel and Scott Nicholls nipped out for the start in the 13th to defeat Jo Screen and Norris, to level things up with Daniel Nermark and Freddie Eriksson combining for a piece of Swedish magic in the 14th.

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The pair rode with style to keep Kylmakorpi behind and in doing so ensured that their team could not be beaten.

It may have been the slowest time of the night, but this only went to illustrate the track craft on display.

After suffering so many times in this heat this season, it is hoped that this pairing will be able to produce the goods more often in their remaining matches.

It was after 8pm before the meeting finally got under way, as with a live Sky meeting it is the television company that dictates the timetable.

Joe Screen was out for the Eagles as rider replacement for Mark Loram, but it was Hampel who made the gate from the inside.

His partner Chris Slabon joined him going down the back straight with an inside pass over Screen, but he was passed by Norris as they went down the home straight and then re-passed by Screen coming out of the second bend.

Kylmakorpi got off a flyer from gate three to earn victory in the second heat, with a spluttering Nermark following him home and Leigh Lanham seeing off a lively Edward Kennett – a late replacement for Peter Ljung – for third.

Eriksson led heat three for three laps before an under-pressure Paul Hurry had to go around his partner. There has been much talk about Hurry's place being under pressure and he was having a battle for second place with Dean Barker.

It was obvious he was being slowed by his team mate and he finally found a way past going into the first bend on the last lap with Barker following him through on the last bend, to relegate Eriksson to third, as Ipswich got their noses in front.

They kept their slender advantage after the next, despite Screen riding away from Nicholls for the win. Nermark passed Kennett on the inside of the first lap, but then had to fend off the youngster's persistent challenge for the remainder.

Hurry and Eriksson filled the minor places, behind Norris in another share of the spoils in heat five, before the Eagles turned the tables in heat six.

In one race they went from two behind to two in front after Hampel was squeezed out on the first corner.

Heat seven saw Ipswich level things up after Nicholls made a determined first corner to race away and Lanham forced his way passed Tacey on the back straight, with precious room between himself and the fence.

Slabon came up with the goods to defeat Norris in heat eight and with Nermark fielding off the challenge from Kylmakorpi, the home side had their noses back in front.

Again it didn't last long though, as Kylmakorpi and Screen raced to a 5-1 from Hurry and Eriksson, as the Witches found themselves playing catch up once more.

Heat ten saw the Eagles keep their slender advantage, as their pairing filled the minor places behind Hampel, Slabon losing out in a ding-dong battle with Barker for third. The pair passing and re-passing them a couple of times.

Ipswich levelled in the next with Nicholls winning and Lanham finishing third, but again the Eagles wouldn't give up.

Kylmakorpi and Barker sprinted out of the start for another maximum advantage to re-assert their advantage, before Hampel and Nicholls showed their style to pull the Witches back in the 13th.

After Nermark and Eriksson's heroics in the 14th, Ipswich only needed two points to win and Nicholls – in fine form – was in no mood to let that go. He raced from the start to easily take the win with Hampel pulling off after three laps when his primary chain broke.

So Ipswich have now added a welcome two points to their tally, although with Belle Vue also winning last night, they will need to keep their momentum going in order to ensure they avoid the wooden spoon.