Witches send a warning

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches fired a note of warning to the rest of the Elite League with an impressive 17-point victory over Oxford Silver Machine at Foxhall Stadium last night.

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches fired a note of warning to the rest of the Elite League with an impressive 17-point victory over Oxford Silver Machine at Foxhall Stadium last night.

Following their victory over league leaders Poole seven days ago, the Witches were again in commanding form at Foxhall Stadium last night.

If they maintain this form until the end of the season, a play-off place will be assured and no side will look forward to coming to tackle John Louis' side.

The Witches looked every part the team that set the league alight earlier in the season and the return to form of captain Scott Nicholls in particular was a highlight on a night of terrific racing.

The Witches were never behind all evening and although the visitors pulled the scores back to 19-17 after heat six, it was as close as they got with the Witches producing a strong second-half display.

In recent weeks Ipswich have looked a bit fragile at times, especially when under pressure, but last night they showed no sign of nerves to score their biggest winning-margin of the season, leaving Oxford with no answers.

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For Nicholls it has been a rough time of it of late with a crippling knee injury, but last night the rider, who celebrates his Testimonial at Foxhall next Saturday afternoon, showed he is right back to his old self and he only failed to secure a five-ride maximum when beaten by David Norris in the final heat.

Nicholls won the majority of his rides from the gate but when Sebastian Ulamek got the better of him at the start of heat 11 it took all of Nicholls' track craft to pass the Pole in style.

Ulamek was on a tactical ride at the time as Oxford hoped to pull back some points in the last third of the meeting. After he could only manage a second place in that race, team-mate Rafal Dobrucki did even worse one heat later when passed by both Jesper B Jensen and Kim Jansson. That was the end of the Oxford resistance with Jansson in particular having his best meeting in Witches colours since the Belle Vue clash away in April.

But he wasn't alone. Once again Chris Louis was in terrific form despite riding with a suspected broken finger which meant he didn't take a ride in the final race. Louis won three of his four rides and led by example on a night when all the Witches apart from young Daniel King, scored well.

This result gives Ipswich an excellent chance of the bonus point in the return fixture at Cowley tonight - and indeed if they ride with the same determination there is little reason they could not pick up

maximum points.

Ipswich now have a slight gap in third place in the Elite League table and more to the point they are coming back into the form at just the right time.

Hans Andersen won the first heat with Danny Bird passing Ulamek on the fourth bend of lap one although Oxford hit straight back in the next.

Heat three was quite extraordinary with the Oxford pairing gating to the front only for Louis to nip up the inside of both with Jensen passing Niels-Kristen Iversen.

Norris overcooked it on the second turn of the last lap in heat four, just missing Nicholls in the bargain as Ipswich took a six-point lead and Louis continued his impressive form as he swept around Travis McGowan for victory in heat five.

Oxford had what proved to be their best moment of the match in heat six with Jonas Davidsson and Norris gating to the front to hold off Andersen and Nicholls won heat seven comfortably although Ipswich now only led by two.

Jansson and Bird made the most of Ryan Fisher's fall when in second place in heat eight and heat ten was a corker with Andersen and Dobrucki enjoying a terrific first-lap scrap with Andersen showing his class.

Bird made it an even happier heat for the Witches' fans as he passed Dobrucki one lap later and Ipswich now had a ten-point lead.

That's when it all fell apart for the visitors beginning with Nicholls' pass on Ulamek and Jensen and Jansson's 5-2 maximum in the next.

Ulamek and Norris crashed on the first turn in heat 13 with Nicholls winning the re-run and tactical substitute Norris fell when trying to pass Jansson in heat 14. Norris ended Nicholls' hopes of a maximum in the final race.

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