Witches put to the sword by Pirates

DIFFERENT team, same result.Ipswich Evening Star Witches' re-vamped side fared no better than the old version when Elite League leaders Poole Pirates plundered the points at Foxhall Stadium last night.

By Elvin King

DIFFERENT team, same result.

Ipswich Evening Star Witches' re-vamped side fared no better than the old version when Elite League leaders Poole Pirates plundered the points at Foxhall Stadium last night.

Oxford won by the same score seven days earlier when – skipper Scott Nicholls apart – Ipswich showed little commitment.


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Last night against a patched-up Poole there was eagerness and endeavour, but not enough skill to get the better of in-form Grand Prix star Leigh Adams and a vintage show by 1993 world champion Sam Ermolenko.

These two were the only visiting riders to win races, but they did more than enough, and neither was headed by an Ipswich man.

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The meeting ended on a flat note when Danny Bird needed lengthy attention before being taken off the track by ambulance.

Thankfully, no bones are broken, but the Guildford-based youngster suffered severe bruising to both legs with the track doctor expecting Bird to be in great pain today – and even worse pain tomorrow.

It was Daniel Nermark who caused the carnage in heat 14 in his desire to take the lead and help Ipswich to a 5-1 that would have levelled the scores going into the final race.

The Swede's footrest caught the safety fence as he hurtled out of the second bend. Nermark tumbled and his machine careered off down the track.

Bird and Craig Watson could not avoid the flying object and both came crashing down as the spillage stretched the whole length of the back straight.

Davey Watt was winded as he took avoiding action. Nermark was excluded, and Jansson came into the re-run in place of Bird who was by now in the ambulance room.

A 5-1 to Watson and Watt confirmed a Poole victory – and Ipswich sixth home reverse of the season.

Ermolenko turned back the years on a machine that looked super-fast, and his bursts round the first and second bends had to be seen to be believed for a man over 40.

Watt gave his top two valuable assistance and showed much better form than when he guested for Ipswich at Oxford last Friday.

Veteran Wolverhampton Ermolenko was drafted into a Pirates side that had a strange look to it.

Only Adams and Watt are regulars with the Dorset side hit by a succession of injuries.

David Ruud joined Tony Rickardsson, Lukas Dryml, Bjarne Pedersen and Krzysztof Kasprzak on the injured list when he suffered concussion riding in a Swedish qualifier on Wednesday night.

Promoter Matt Ford was left struggling to get a side together. He said; "I would like to thank all the lads who came in.

"I was telephoning round in desperation and all those who came in did well.

"I knew Sam rode round Foxhall well, but to be honest I did not expect a full house from him.

"Our mixed bag knitted together well and we had a lovely atmosphere on our side of the pits."

Rider replacement for Dryml accrued just five points, against an Ipswich side that saw both Craig Boyce and Kim Jansson have disappointing returns to the team.

But at least their arrivals in place of Paul Hurry and Chris Slabon has renewed interest as there was a bigger than usual attendance.

Nicholls was unbeaten for three races and then had no answer to the Ermolenko/Adams partnership.

There is a lot of pressure on Jarek Hampel's 21-year-old shoulders – and it showed. He did remarkably well in three heats, but was found wanting in his other three.

It is asking a lot of one so young to compete on level terms with heat leaders of the calibre of Grand Prix star Adams.

Boyce's inclusion gave the Witches line-up a much more rounded look, but he struggled to get going. It is still a fair bet however that he will offer more in the long term than the beleaguered but willing Hurry.

Freddie Eriksson must show more soon or his inclusion for Tom P Madsen will have been only of cosmetic value, while Nermark's consistency leaves something to be desired.

Bird was in fine form, and he showed why he could make it big at a time when then is a dearth of young English talent coming through.

But like Watt he is racing too often as he doubles up Premier and Elite League racing and takes a batch of regular guest bookings.

You cannot be sharp in body and potent in horsepower when you are travelling up and down the country and riding four or five times a week.

Bird generally does well however and last night did more than enough under normal circumstances to have helped the Witches to a win.

Poole's top two got off to the best possible start, although the visitors were fortunate when Jansson's sick engine led to him being passed by Brent Werner in heat two.

Ermolenko won heat three by miles, with Poole asset Boyce struggling at the back.

Adams and Ermolenko were a quarter of the track ahead at the finish of race five, before Ipswich hit back with Nicholls and Bird's 5-1 in heat seven.

But Watt got to his feet after a first bend spill with Eriksson to follow home Ermolenko in the re-run of heat eight.

Tactical substitutes Jarek Hampel and then Nicholls helped Ipswich pull back to within two points by heat ten with Hampel slowing to allow Nicholls room to pass Watt on the second lap of heat ten.

But Ermolenko and Adams struck again in heat 11 to ensure that Ipswich were kept at arm's length.

A drawn heat 13 saw Ipswich stay in the hunt, but once Nermark struck the fence in heat 14 it was all over bar the shouting.

n IPSWICH will have to bring in a Conference League guest if – as expected – Danny Bird fails to take his place in their line-up at Arena-Essex tonight.

Bird suffered severe bruising to his legs in a spectacular crash at Foxhall Stadium last night, and unless he makes a near miraculous recovery he will have to miss out on Ipswich's final away British League Cup match.

Daniel Nermark, who suffered a bruised and cut hand in the same heat 14 crash, says that he is determined to ride even if he has to go through the pain barrier.

"I asked Chris Louis if he would turn out as he is in our squad, but he politely refused," said Ipswich team manager Mike Smillie.

This competition offers one last hope of success for the Witches, despite having lost their previous away meetings at Peterborough, King's Lynn and Rye House.

They have picked up the bonus point against both the Panthers and the Stars and are likely to do the same against Rye House, having lost by just two points at Hoddesdon.

The top team and three best runners-up from the five groups go through to the knock-out stages and Arena Essex could well be the side that stands in the way of Witches' progress.

Leigh Lanham will be a hard man to beat in the Premier League Arena-Essex side as he rides the tight Purfleet track so well.

And in Joonas Kylmakorpi the home team has another potential trump card. Danny KIng is set to line up against his elder brother Jason.

Tonight's line-ups

Arena Essex: J Kylmakorpi, H Bager, K Tatum, J King, L Lanham, J Parsons, L Herne.

Ipswich: D Bird or guest, K Jansson, F Eriksson, D Nermark, P Hurry, D King, B Howe.

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