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Witches pay price for slow start

PUBLISHED: 17:10 23 April 2004 | UPDATED: 04:49 02 March 2010

Ipswich Witches 41 Wolverhampton Wolves 51



BOOM time has hit speedway, but Ipswich Evening Star Witches now know that success does not come easily.

This surprise home defeat at the hands of Wolverhampton at Foxhall Stadium last night makes a commanding victory in tomorrow's home Sky Bet Elite League meeting with Swindon Robins doubly important.

Ipswich Witches 41 Wolverhampton Wolves 51

BOOM time has hit speedway, but Ipswich Evening Star Witches now know that success does not come easily.

This surprise home defeat at the hands of Wolverhampton at Foxhall Stadium last night makes a commanding victory in tomorrow's home Sky Bet Elite League meeting with Swindon Robins doubly important.

A good performance is needed if the Witches are to regain the confidence of many of their fans after a lacklustre show saw a hungry Wolves side gain the aggregate bonus point having lost 48-42 in the corresponding fixture at Monmore Green on Easter Monday.

Fancied Swindon lost at home to Belle Vue last night to highlight the competitiveness in the Elite League this season and a win against the Robins tomorrow will show that last night was just a blip.

But what last night proved is that success has to be earned.

Another good crowd came to roar on the Witches and every track in the country is enjoying an upturn in interest.

Monday night's meeting between Wolves and Poole attracted a record television audience for Sky Sport's live speedway coverage.

There is no doubt that the loss of the injured Jesper B Jensen affected the Witches' performance, with the rider replacement facility accruing just four points.

Referee Jim Lawrence pointed out that Jensen's correct average is 5.95 – his 2002 figure, as he did not ride in 2003 – and not 6.54 as the Ipswich management had assumed.

This means that Chris Louis has effectively been the third Witches heat leader since the start of the season and in rider replacement terms meant that Hans Andersen could not have an extra ride last night.

Wolves used the same facility for injured Daniel Nermark and that also totalled four points. It was the magnificence of Mikael Max and veteran American Sam Ermolenko's liking of the Foxhall circuit that turned the match the visitors' way.

Add a superb reserve show from Chris Neath and a steady evening from David Howe and the visitors had the match virtually won by heat nine.

By this time a slow-starting – in more ways than one – Ipswich had supplied just two race winners and huff and puff as they did in the later stages the damage had already been done.

Heat ten offered them an opportunity to get back into the match after Andersen had sorted out his machine problems.

He and the previously immaculate Danny Bird were in a 5-1 position until the latter made a couple of errors and was passed by both Wolverhampton riders.

So when Ipswich gained a 4-2 in the following race instead of being level they were still four points adrift.

Ermolenko and Neath then combined for a 5-1 that stunned home fans although Kim Jansson tried all he knew and got beyond Neath for half a lap in the race of the night.

Scott Nicholls has still to show his 2003 form and when he was used as a tactical rider in heat 13, it needed Andersen to get out of the way in the final turn so that he could at least finish second some distance behind Max.

Heat 14 was a marathon with three attempts needed to get the show on the road. Neath, who many Witches fans felt got away with rolling starts, was considered to have made an unfair move at the tapes.

In the first re-run, the referee was unhappy with how the riders went about their business going into the first turn, and called them back again.

By this time Neath's machine had undergone repairs and along with Ermolenko he swept away for another 5-1. Jansson again tried all he knew and ended up taking an awkward tumble on the final lap, with Neath not the Swede's favourite rider.

Neath wound up the crowd with his actions on a victory lap, before Mr Lawrence left Witches' fans fuming in the final race.

He excluded Nicholls after Andersen made the start and Nicholls went bursting through on the inside of the third bend.

Nicholls was accused of bringing down Max, although the home rider, team manager Mike Smillie and 90 per cent of the crowd disagreed.

A 5-1 would have meant a run-off for the aggregate bonus point – and possibly some reward for Ipswich, but to be honest the meeting was lost in the lethargic opening nine races.

Chris Louis did pass Eric Carrillo for a third place in heat three and Louis then did well to hold off David Howe on the first lap for a win in heat five.

Wolves took a lead they were never going to lose in race six when Andersen had spark plug trouble when second on the third lap.

Daniel King received one of the biggest cheers of the night when he kept expertly ahead of Neath for a big point in heat seven, before Adam Skornicki played his part in a memorable night for the Wolves by flying out of the gate to win heat eight.

The first of Wolves' three 5-1s followed – and any smugness that Ipswich may have had about this season after already winning three away matches was about to disappear.

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