Witches' play-off hopes all but over

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches can surely wave goodbye to any lingering hopes of an Elite League play-off place after this thoroughly disappointing display at Swindon yesterday.

By Elvin King

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches can surely wave goodbye to any lingering hopes of an Elite League play-off place after this thoroughly disappointing display at Swindon yesterday.

Not for the first time in the last couple of months it was virtually a one-man show, with acting skipper Mark Loram saving the visitors from a massacre.

Two 5-1s in the final two races to the Swindon Robins meant that the home side kept alive their hopes of collecting the aggregate bonus point as well as the win.

With the unbeatable Leigh Adams lining up to face the plucky Loram in a run-off after the aggregate scores ended level, there was never any real doubt that Ipswich would lose out on another extra point.

Piotr Protasiewicz and Daniel King had one good ride each, but otherwise it was a tale of woe for Ipswich fans watching the action unfold live on their television screens.

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Sky Sports must have been over the moon at the way the meeting ended in exciting fashion, but the Ipswich

riders were left to reflect on what went wrong.

Ipswich were without Chris Louis, who suffered a broken collarbone guesting for Belle Vue at Arena-Essex on Friday and on this evidence are going to miss him badly.

The rider replacement facility accrued six points, with every rider apart from Protasiewicz eligible to have an extra ride. Rider replacement for Swindon totalled a paid nine points.

Heat one saw Protasiewicz make the best start from the inside but Grand Prix star Adams went beyond him going down the back straight.

The home reserves gained a 5-1 in heat two, with 2005 Grand Prix rider Tomasz Chrzanowski getting the better of Daniel King going round the second bend.

The meeting suffered a delay when Russian Renat Gafurov locked up in heat three. Kim Jansson took avoiding action and needed time to recover from his spill.

The Swede suffered a head injury riding in Poland on Sunday and although he took his place in the re-run he aggravated the injury and pulled out of the meeting before his final programmed ride. In the re-run, Mads Korneliussen won from the tapes.

Tobi Kroner made the best start from the inside in heat four, but had been overtaken by both Swindon riders by the third bend, with Loram making up ground to finish second.

Ipswich gained their first heat win when Protasiewicz flew from third to first to take the chequered flag in race five, but with Jansson at the back Ipswich failed to make up any ground.

Loram outgated Adams in the next heat and then kept the Australian out of his way on the second bend. Adams hit back strongly and went by Loram as the riders completed their second circuit.

The Witches had a lift in heat seven when Loram came in for his rider replacement ride and Ipswich gained their first heat advantage.

But Robins' fans were soon cheering again when the home team gained a comfortable 5-1 in heat eight.

Loram rode for double points in heat nine and won from the tapes and with King doing well to come second, Ipswich pulled back from nine down to being three behind.

However, the recovery was short-lived, Adams and Watt making by far the best starts in heat ten to put Swindon 35-28 ahead.

Ipswich brought in King in place of Jansson, but it was Swindon who moved further into the lead when Ulamek beat his fellow Pole Protasiewicz from the tapes.

Miskiowiak was a rather surprise wearer of the black and white helmet colour in heat 12, which was drawn.

At least the extra point looked safe for Ipswich, but they finished badly. Heat 13 saw the previously unbeaten Adams beat Loram, with Ulamek finishing ahead of a disappointing Protasiewicz.

Miskowiak took Louis' rider replacement ride in the penultimate race, but Swindon kept in the hunt for the extra point when the Ipswich pair were again found wanting from the tapes.

Another maximum for the home team in the final heat led to a run-off for the extra point and although Loram made a good start, the Australian was too powerful and claimed the bonus point.

JOHN Louis, the Ipswich Witches promoter, was down in the dumps in the Swindon pits at the end of last night's speedway meeting.

He said: “How did we get ourselves in a position to lose the aggregate bonus point?

“We did the hard work in the meeting at our place by winning 56-37. This should be enough to win any bonus point.

“The riders who let us down know who they are.

“Mark Loram was superb as usual, but he cannot do it all himself. Piotr Protasiewicz began well but slipped away and Daniel King had one good ride.

“There is no doubt we missed the injured Chris Louis and when he is in the team he interacts with Mark Loram and helps build a good team spirit.

“It will be very hard to make the play-offs now and we have to look at our poor away form.”

Acting skipper Loram found it hard to disguise his feelings. He said as diplomatically as he could: “I am sure the other riders are trying their hardest, but over the last few weeks we have not been doing the business on our travels.

“It is just not good enough and it has cost us a play-off place.

“Our fans watching on TV must have been very disappointed to see us fall away so badly and it was a tough task to ask me to beat a rider as good as Leigh Adams round Swindon in the run-off.

“We were looking for at least the bonus point, but felt if we clicked we could come up with a win.”

Alun Rossiter, the Swindon team manager, said: “This should seal the play-offs for us now. All our lads did well and our crowd was fantastic.

“It was the best I have seen Mark Loram ride for two or three years and he was worth the admission money alone.”

Mike Smillie, the Witches team manager, confirmed that Loram will move to number one in the Ipswich averages on Friday.

Scott Nicholls was doing the summaries for Sky TV as he is still recovering from a broken collarbone.

The Ipswich-born British number one said: “I am sure I will be fit to ride in the next Grand Prix on Saturday week.

“The pain has eased and I could ride now at a push. I am seeing top speedway physio Brian Simpson in the morning to get an update on my situation.”