Witches give Eagles a serious fright

Eastbourne Eagles 51 Ipswich Witches 39DON'T be fooled by the scoreline, this was the closest 12-point defeat Ipswich Evening Star Witches will enjoy all season.

By Mike Bacon

Eastbourne Eagles 51 Ipswich Witches 39

DON'T be fooled by the scoreline, this was the closest 12-point defeat Ipswich Evening Star Witches will enjoy all season.

Two points down with just four races to go, the Suffolk side were pushing the Eastbourne Eagles all the way in Saturday night's Sky Bet Elite League encounter in Sussex.

Despite being without Robert Miskowiak, who was racing in Poland, Danny King, Carl Wilkinson and Steve Boxall who were all racing for their Premier League sides, the Evening Star Witches' top four had stepped up to the plate.

Chris Louis, Kim Jansson, Pepe Protasiewicz and Mark Loram were all riding their socks off to keep Ipswich in the hunt, but they just ran out of steam and other team-mates at the death and the Eagles, although deserving of their victory, were flattering 12-point winners.

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A succession of 4-2 heat victories in heats 12-14 and a final race 5-1 maximum gave the home side the result they would have expected against their understrength opponents.

However, heads were rightly high in the Witches side of the pits at the end and their travelling fans on the back straight were more than satisfied with their team's efforts.

From the moment Jansson and Louis trapped ahead of David Norris in heat one, you knew the Witches, although likely to end up pointless, were going to give this one a go.

Jansson in particular had another terrific night, the young Swede doing all, and more, expected of him right now.

Off gate three in heat one, he was round Norris and Louis, with the Witches skipper then producing the ultimate team-riding master-class to keep Norris behind him.

The Evening Star Witches were ahead, but it was the only time they were all meeting and just one race later it was all square.

Jan Jaros had never ridden at Eastbourne and on the tight, tricky Arlington circuit it showed. He found the going tough all night, starting in heat two when Cameron Woodward passed him on lap two.

Protasiewicz beat Dean Barker and then Loram produced a wonder ride to hold off home star Nicki Pedersen for four pulsating laps as Ipswich's bright start continued.

The scores were all level after heat four and Louis had to be smart to produce a cut-back on Barker, who was suffering from a virus, to split the Eagles' pairing in heat five.

Andrew Moore did well to keep Loram behind him for a lap, allowing team-mate Norris to race off into the distance in heat six and Somerset youngster Glen Phillips, in for the Witches in place of Miskowiak, produced the first of three good rides, when he held Woodward behind him in heat seven.

Exciting teenager Lewis Bridger was doing everything he could to try and catch up with the fast-starting Jansson in heat eight. But the 16-year-old overcooked it on the first bend of the final lap and slammed into the fence.

Witches guest reserve Daniel Giffard picked up a fortunate point - he looked out of his class all night - but Ipswich were only two points down at this stage.

Loram beat Barker and then Protasiewicz suffered clutch problems as he led Norris, with the Eastbourne No.1 racing past the Pole. Woodward had a spectacular crash on turn four in heat 11, he and his bike climbing up the Eastbourne air fence before crashing back onto the track.

Another drawn race and the Witches were trailing just 34-32 with four races to go.

But the Eagles finished strongly with Louis and Loram producing their poorest starts of the night in heats 13 and 15.

Credit the Witches for this one though. At full strength, they would have won the meeting.