Witches on verge of Craven Shield final

MAXIMUM-man Mark Loram predicts that Ipswich Evening Star Witches can nick a aggregate win at Eastbourne tomorrow and reach the final of the Craven Shield.

By Elvin King

MAXIMUM-man Mark Loram predicts that Ipswich Evening Star Witches can nick a aggregate win at Eastbourne tomorrow and reach the final of the Craven Shield.

Ipswich have not won any silverware since their treble-winning 1998 campaign, and 2006 will be considered another serious let-down if they do not qualify from this weakest qualifying group.

Loram said: “It is great to score a maximum for Ipswich, although it was a bit of a cheat, as I only had four rides.

“This competition is something different, and I quite enjoy it, and so far we are doing okay.

“Having built up a lead, we are in a position to nick it tomorrow although there is no doubt that the guests in our team have strengthened us up considerably.

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“Pepe Protasiewicz is not riding well at the moment and having Scott Nicholls in the team is a bit of a result and with him riding again at Eastbourne, we must try to make the most of it.”

Ipswich dominated the speedway meeting at Foxhall Stadium last night, taking the chequered flag in 11 of the 12 heats in which they featured.

After finishing one point behind Eastbourne Eagles in the opening leg at Wolverhampton on Monday, Ipswich now take a seven- point advantage over the Sussex side into the final leg at Arlington tomorrow.

Wolves are out of the hunt, having suffered last night when they produced just one race winner and will only be of academic value when the Witches and the Eagles fight it out at the weekend.

Loram produced a magnificent exhibition on the first two bends of the final race, to beat former world champion Nicki Pedersen to confirm his paid 12 points, but it was by no means a one-man Ipswich show.

Eastbourne were in competitive mood, having won a league match at Foxhall a fortnight ago, so the Witches riders needed to be at their best to ensure that they took advantage of riding on their home track.

There was no doubt that the guest booking of Nicholls for Protasiewicz, who is withholding his services, strengthened Ipswich and the Coventry rider was in superb form, dropping just one

point.

This came in heat 15 when David Norris got away with a flying start and was three yards ahead of the rest of the field before the others had reacted.

It was a surprise that the riders were not called back with Norris confirming that his tear-offs had been removed by the tapes as they brushed his goggles.

Adam Skornicki proved another wise guest, and he followed on his good work from Monday by scoring a paid ten- point return with his partnership with fellow Pole, Robert Miskowiak, proving productive.

With Daniel King giving Loram superb support in their pairing, it was only Kim Jansson who was a disappointment for the Witches.

He appeared to have got things together in heat ten, when a comfortable 5-1 in partnership with Nicholls looked on the cards, until Jansson hit the second bend fence on the final circuit.

It was a spectacular collision, with Freddie Lindgren riding into both man and machine as Jansson hit the deck ahead of the Wolves' rider.

Jansson suffered bruising to his lower body and did not ride again, but should be fit for tomorrow's final leg.

The opening time by Nicholls was the fastest of the season, with Ipswich taking a little time to find their top form, but then collecting successive 5-1s in heats 12 and 13, to put them in the driving seat.

Miskowiak and Skornicki raced to another maximum in heat 16, as the threat of rain subsided after it had begun to drizzle before heat nine, but never came to much.

King was unable to score any points in the final race, but the advantage Ipswich now have gives them a good chance of an aggregate win, although Eastbourne will be fired up and it will by no means be easy.

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