Witches show signs of improvement

PUBLISHED: 20:00 29 April 2003 | UPDATED: 13:48 03 March 2010

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches contributed fully to an exciting meeting at Monmore Green last night, despite eventually losing out on more Elite League points.

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches contributed fully to an exciting meeting at Monmore Green last night, despite eventually losing out on more Elite League points.

When Belle Vue's meeting was washed out earlier in the day, the TV cameras were there to cover that meeting switched their attention to the midlands.

There were not many Witches fans in the crowd but those that turned up, or tuned in, saw a vastly improved showing from their team.

With Wolves's asset Daniel Nermark hitting form, Scott Nicholls his ever-reliable self and all the remaining team members on the pace, Ipswich gave Wolves more than a few problems.

Still without the inured Jarek Hampel the six remaining Witches worked together as a unit and for much of the match were on level terms with the home side.

It was not until heat 11, when Chris Slabon suffered an untimely engine failure, that the home side took the lead for the first time and only in the penultimate heat did they finally seal the points.

That still left the Witches in with a chance of the aggregate bonus point and for the early part of the nominated heat it looked like they were in with a chance.

Nicholls and Nermark made the better start and were on a 5-1, needed to force a run off although Nermark was eventually passed by the potent Peter Karlsson – Mikel Max partnership.

Nicholls came out as the rider replacement in heat one and raced off for the win ahead of Max.

Heat two saw the Ipswich reserves out in front as they went down the back straight for the first time.

Leigh Lanham had made a good start with Tom P Madsen tucked in behind to follow him, but James Grieves, the thorn in the Witches' side for most of the meeting, race around the pair on the bottom bends.

There was drama in heat three, with three attempts needed to get the race underway. In the first Sam Ermolenko appeared to lay his bike down after a tight first corner, with the referee giving him the benefit of the doubt to order a re-run.

Nermark then became the victim when he felt the force of Ermolenko's machine and crashed out.

At the third and final attempt the Wolves' asset showed his mettle to hold his nerve in another fiercely fought first bend to race away with Paul Hurry for the visitors' first 5-1.

Nicholls won heat four by a mile to keep the advantage before Nermark came out as the rider replacement in heat five.

He led down the back straight with Slabon until Ermolenko rolled back the years to race around the outside of the pair on the fourth bend.

David Howe took Nicholls high and wide in heat six to let partner Max come screaming through and off for victory. Nicholls was soon past Howe but couldn't catch Max as Wolves reduced the deficit to two.

They were level in the next with Peter Karlsson winning from Nermark and Grieves holding out Hurry in third.

Slabon won heat eight in style to keep things all square. Team manager Mike Smillie switched his reserve pairing for the heat and although a lively Lanham past Howe he was soon re-passed in a battle for the odd point.

Nicholls went around Adam Skornicki in the ninth but half a lap later Emolenko got the better of Madsen in another share of the spoils.

Howe contributed to a spectacularly ending in the next. Nermark was away with Hurry on the first lap but Howe came up alongside Hurry and took him towards the back straight fence.

This allowed Max through and despite Hurry's continued efforts another three all looked on the cards.

Heading towards the finishing line with the flag just yards away Howe reared up, either after picking up drive or maybe starting to celebrate when he flipped over spectacularly and was nearly collected by his partner.

Although his machine crossed the line Howe was left feat away embedded in the fence as the Witches gained a 4-2 that took them into the lead once again.

Heat 11 saw the home side score a 5-1 that took them into the lead for the first time on the night. Slabon spluttered away from the start with a carburettor problem as Peter Karlsson and Grieves got the better of Hurry.

It was Hurry's turn to have fuel starvation problems in the next. He was in a share of the spoils position with Lanham when he slowed, although after leaning down and turning his fuel tap on he roared back into life.

However by then his chance was gone as Wolves opened up a four-point lead.

Slabon came in as the rider replacement for Hampel in the 13th and although he raced into the lead with Nicholls he was picked up by first Max and then Peter Karlsson, who locked up and was nearly collected by the Witches man on the final lap.

Ipswich still trailed by four with Smillie bringing in Lanham in an attempt to get back into the match.

However it was the race that saw Wolves clinch the meeting. Nermark and Grieves clashed elbows on the way to the first bend.

This effectively finished the Witches man's challenge and at such a crucial time in the meeting would have been deemed by many as an unsatisfactory start.

Langham gave it his all chasing Skornicki at the front, but as the race came to a close, Grieves closed in and eventually found his way past.

Then came heat 15 with Nicholls winning in style and Nermark losing out to Max/Karlsson.

So the statistics will show this is just another defeat although there were signs to suggest that this just may be a turning point in what has been a difficult season.

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