Nicholls return confirmed

IPSWICH Witches' battle to avoid relegation from the Elite League has been given a boost with confirmation that Great Britain's No.1 speedway rider Scott Nicholls and up-and-coming Australian Troy Batchelor are to join the club next week.

Elvin King

IPSWICH Witches' battle to avoid relegation from the Elite League has been given a boost with confirmation that Great Britain's No.1 speedway rider Scott Nicholls and up-and-coming Australian Troy Batchelor are to join the club next week.

Their impending arrival has been expected for some while - and so were the names of the riders whose places they will take.

Poles Jarek Hampel and Piotr Swiderski are on their way out of Foxhall Stadium with the former already departed and Swiderski riding his last meeting in the league fixture at Swindon tonight (start 7.30pm).


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Ipswich are using Wolverhampton's Tai Woffinden as a guest for Hampel at the Abbey Stadium, and both Nicholls and Batchelor will be in the Witches side that begins a run of four meetings in five days at Peterborough on Monday.

Nicholls' parent club Coventry need him for their meeting tomorrow night as their other two top riders - Chris Harris and Rory Schlein - are unavailable because of 2010 Grand Prix qualifiers on Saturday.

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Batchelor - like Nicholls - has been signed on loan for the rest of the season, and he did not come into consideration tonight as he is a Swindon rider having been dropped by the Robins to allow Matej Zagar to become full time. He has recovered from a hand injury.

British speedway has a habit of changing its rules mid-stream, but as it stands the bottom side in the Elite League will face the winners of a four-team Premier League play-off over two legs to determine who will take their place in the top flight in 2010.

This might be just a cosmetic exercise as it is understood that discussions are taking place to re-structure British speedway next year to cover against the economic recession.

Half the current Premier League clubs will join forces with teams now in the National League while the other half will move up and join a 'watered down' top league.

Hampel's departure is no surprise with reports that he only wanted to ride half a season and then see his machinery handed over to Robert Miskowiak.

He is blaming the decision to reduce the number of teams in the title play-offs from six down to four as his reason for going.

“I apologise to all my fans at Ipswich but my health and career must come first,” said Hampel, who rides in a 2010 Grand Prix qualifying semi-final on Saturday alongside Tobi Kroner.

“I have never made it a secret that I find it difficult to commit to all three major leagues and maintain my best form. I have been struggling with a virus over the last three weeks and when the BSPA decided to move the goal posts I decided it would have to be Britain that I dropped.”

Swiderski was the sensation of 2008 speedway, but he has struggled this year with Witches team manager Pete Simmons saying: “It hasn't happened for Piotr this season and we could not wait any longer to find more consistency in the team.”

Ipswich face a tough task tonight to end a run of five consecutive defeats against a side where they were thrashed 64-28 on their last away meeting on June 4.

- LEIGH Lanham, who was dropped from the Ipswich team last month, has joined Premier League Newport. Along with Swedish youngster Jonas Andersson he is taking over from Mark Lemon and Brent Werner - with Paul Fry taking over as captain.

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