Witches still in the hunt

THERE was no first class honours for Ipswich at Poole last night. But thanks to an encouraging display by their second strings they are still in a promising position to end the season with some silverware.

By Elvin King

THERE was no first class honours for Ipswich at Poole last night.

But thanks to an encouraging display by their second strings they are still in a promising position to end the season with some silverware.

Not one of the Witches heat leaders managed to win a race as the Pirates made full use of home advantage to build up a 12 point lead in last night's Craven Shield final first leg.

If Ipswich can score well at Foxhall Stadium tonight they will go into the final leg at Coventry on Saturday with high hopes of taking the Shield on aggregate.

The Pirates scored 5-1s in three of their final four outings to build up a considerable lead after the initial 12 heats last night saw the three sides neck and neck.

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Chris Slabon was one of the Ipswich heroes with two significant heat wins while Danny Bird was the only other Witches race winner when he popped out of the start in the penultimate race to claim the scalp of former world champion Billy Hamill.

Lee Richardson scored a maximum for the Coventry Bees and they were well served by guest Joe Screen. But they never had the back up and Ipswich thanks to filling their fair share of minor places ended the night level with the midland side.

Peter Karlsson proved a perfect guest for World Champion Tony Rickardsson with a paid maximum and Hans Andersen dropped just one point for the home side.

Slabon passed Henka Gustafsson on the second bend for third place in the first race and although a disappointing Craig Boyce made the start in heat two he was passed by Richardson on the second lap.

Scott Nicholls possibly suffered a hang over after winning the British Championship on Saturday, failing to win a heat, and in heat four he had to pass Lars Gunnestad to gain second place. Impressive reserves Kim Jansson, given an early ride wisely by team manager Mike Smillie, then passed Gunnestad on the second lap.

Both Jarek Hampel and Slabon went past Screen on the second bend of heat five, but the Coventry guest repassed Hampel on the fourth bend.

Ipswich suffered a 5-1 reverse in heat seven when Boyce seized and engine at the start and Bird finished third. Screen went beyond Nicholls on the back straight of the first lap to win heat eight, and in heat ten both Ipswich riders went passed Andre Compton on the first circuit to follow home Karlsson.

Hampel suffered ignition problems and was timed out of heat 11 which Salbon led until the third lap.

He then was involved with Hamill and the American appeared to push the Ipswich rider across the track and into the fence.

Hamill was excluded and the Witches gained a 5-1 in the re-run with Slabon making the start and Jansson passing Ryan Fisher on the third bend.

Boyce shed a chain on the first corner of heat 13 but the race was called back after an unsatisfactory start. In the re-run Boyce borrowed Nicholls machine and although he briefly went into second place on the second lap the Pirates gained a 5-1.

Richardson won heat 14 rushing beyond Joonas Kylmakorpi on the back straight, before Ipswich suffered another 5-1 reverse in heat 16 with Hampel and Slabon adrift by the time the riders reached the first corner.

Then Bird flew from the start for a notable victory in the penultimate race to leave Ipswich, like Coventry, reasonably happy as long as they can make their home legs count.

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