Witches give themselves every chance

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches have given themselves every chance of reaching the next round of the Knock-Out Cup after this convincing 52-38 victory at Foxhall Stadium last night.

By Elvin King

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches have given themselves every chance of reaching the next round of the Knock-Out Cup after this convincing 52-38 victory at Foxhall Stadium last night.

Scott Nicholls, the former Witches skipper, proved a good guest for the injured Mark Loram, dropping just one point in the last race.

Skipper Chris Louis scored ten points with two race wins, but it was reserve Tobi Kroner who was the star turn with a paid 13-point return from five rides.

If Kroner can keep up this good form in a reserve berth, Ipswich will have a trump card as they try to overcome the loss of Loram.

With new averages affecting team positioning after three home and three away league meetings, the German could find himself in the team proper by the end of the month.

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Whether Ipswich can carve out an aggregate victory in tonight's second leg remains to be seen, but this big win will give them heart.

Robert Miskowiak fired into gear after two blank races, but fellow Pole Marcin Rempala was suffering from a virus and failed to get his name on the scoresheet.

Miskowiak tweaked his engine and improved the ignition so that he won his final two outings as Ipswich pulled away from the Oxford Cheetahs from heats ten to 13.

Oxford are one of the favourites for the league wooden spoon - like Ipswich - but they put up a spirited fight with their guest, Coventry's Rory Schlein, a wise choice.

The rider replacement facility for Ales Dryml accrued seven points, which is more than the Czech would have scored on current form before being injured at the weekend.

Oxford were also without injured ex-Witch Piotr Protasiewicz.

The Witches got off to the best possible start with Kim Jansson making a superb start from the inside gate, and Nicholls completing a smart move going into the first bend to follow the Swede home.

Kroner won the reserves' race in style to stretch the lead before Schlein got in on the act - the Coventry rider winning the next two races after lightning fast breaks from the tapes.

Kroner had the Witches' fans on their feet on the final lap of heat four when he passed Freddie Eriksson after chasing the Swede from the start.

Former Witch Jesper B Jensen was victorious in heat five when he was the next rider to make the best start and home skipper Louis was left to fight for three points getting close to Jensen but unable to pass.

Schlein broke the tapes in heat six and started the re-run 15 metres adrift. It proved an eventful four laps in the first race at Foxhall this year to break a minute.

Nicholls won from tapes to flag, with Jansson roaring inside Eric Andersson on the fourth bend, but Schlein was motoring at speed and he had the power to go past Jansson as the riders finished their third lap.

Miskowiak, who struggled to score in his native Poland at the weekend, was last in heat seven, and retired before the end of the race when some way adrift.

Zibi Suchecki won the heat impressively to maintain Ipswich's slender two-point lead, but this was increased in heat eight when Jansson flew from the tapes and Kroner got the better of Andersson despite the Ipswich man lifting as he made ground to the first turn.

Andersson then slowed and was almost a circuit behind at the finish before retiring.

After the interval, Louis made a magnificent outside burst round the second bend to get the better of Schlein and hang on for his first victory of the night.

Nicholls and Jansson were fastest away in heat 11, but visiting reserve Eriksson - in a rider replacement ride - got the better of Jansson on the third and fourth bends to finish in second place.

Heat 11 saw the Witches stretch their lead to double figures with Miskowiak making a good start at last. It looked as though it might be a 5-1, but Suchecki was passed by Jensen as the riders went down the back straight.

Kroner had Ipswich supporters on their feet again in heat 12 when he set about the task of overtaking Eriksson and achieved the feat as the riders entered the third lap with a brave outside pass.

Louis had earlier held off Eriksson on the opening two turns to win his second race of the evening.

Schlein wore the black and white helmet colour in race 13 but failed to double his points as he was unable to beat an Ipswich rider in a race won by the flying Miskowiak with Nicholls comfortably gaining second place.

Kroner came in for the disappointing Rempala to finish second behind the fast-starting Eriksson in the penultimate race, with Oxford clawing back two more points in the final race.

The second leg takes place at Oxford this evening with Eastbourne's David Norris guesting for Mark Loram in the Ipswich team and the Cheetahs using Peterborough's Niels Kristian Iversen for Piotr Protasiewicz.