Witches too reliant on Protasiewicz

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches did well to escape with just a 13-point beating at Swindon in the Elite League at Blunsdon last night.They provided only two race winners on a night when their credentials to claim a top four play-off place at the end of the season were put to the test.

By Elvin King

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches did well to escape with just a 13-point beating at Swindon in the Elite League at Blunsdon last night.

They provided only two race winners on a night when their credentials to claim a top four play-off place at the end of the season were put to the test.

Piotr Protasiewicz was the only visiting rider to emerge with any credit, and only a couple of falls by home riders towards the end of the meeting kept the score within reason.

Not that the result should set too many alarm bells ringing, as the Abbey Stadium is not Ipswich's most happy hunting ground.

But if the Witches fail to come up with the goods in the return fixture at Foxhall Stadium tomorrow night then the good work - and the confidence bred - from two easy wins over a weak Oxford side last week will have been wasted.

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On a wet track and in a meeting that at one time looked as though it would be postponed before the first race, Ipswich were never in the hunt.

Rain began an hour before the start but with the Sky Sports TV cameras in attendance to show the proceedings live on satellite television, every effort was made to go ahead.

The rain eased and with the first race taking place almost immediately after transmission started at 7.30pm, everything went to plan. But not for the Witches camp, who were soon wishing that the rain would come down again to save them from an inevitable defeat.

Swindon have based their side on a strong top end and Leigh Adams and Lee Richardson did not get their race suits muddy in the filthy conditions until the latter was beaten into last place in the final race.

The opening heat was the fastest of the night but it was still around two seconds slower than the average time at Swindon and showed the effect that the rain had.

Swindon has never been a favourite track for Ipswich, although they did run the Robins close in the match last season when Kevin Doolan broke his arm.

And with Chris Louis struggling to live up to his number one racing order tag and the second strings and reserves also finding it difficult, the home team steadily moved further into the lead.

The two Poles, Piotr Protasiewicz and Robert Miskowiak, gated to a 5-1 in heat three to temporarily raise hopes for the half-dozen Witches supporters who had made the journey to deepest Wiltshire. But from then on, Swindon took charge with Richardson making an error on the first corner of heat four before

passing Mark Loram in style on the second lap.

Loram missed the gate in race six, but passed Mads Korneliussen on the fourth bend for second place and when Swindon looked like grabbing a 5-1 in the following race, Protasiewicz flew beyond Adrian Miedzinski on the second lap.

Jan Jaros had a poor night on a new track for him and along with Daniel King, only scored four points in the bottom two positions against the 16 points accrued by the Swindon reserves.

This was significant to the outcome and when Jaros made a fine start in heat nine, he was passed by Russian Renat Gafurov on the second lap to send the home supporters into raptures.

Loram went from last to second on the third and fourth bends in a sweeping outside pass before Seb Ulamek passed Jaros on the third circuit.

Miskowiak drifted from first to last on the second bend of heat ten, before Richardson motored inside both visiting riders coming out of the second bend of heat 11, with Kim Jansson appearing to impede Chris Louis, who was riding for double points.

It went from bad to worse when Louis was passed by Miedzinski on the penultimate circuit.

Protasiewicz wore the black and white helmet colour in heat 12 and made a perfect job of it, with Gafurov spinning off when second on the second lap to give Ipswich a 7-2 which boosted their hopes of the aggregate bonus point tomorrow night.

However, Adams and Richardson had no trouble banging in a maximum success in race 13 before Ipswich's cause was helped when Ulamek took a tumble when leading on the second lap of heat 14.

A drawn heat followed to bring the curtain down on a rare Tuesday meeting with the Swedish League taking precedence on that night for most weeks of the season.

And in Ipswich's case last night, they will be hoping that they do not have a repeat in the months ahead.

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