Relegation fears eased with rampant win

Elite LeagueIpswich Witches 56 Belle Vue Aces 37IPSWICH Witches gave a rampant performance at Foxhall Stadium last night against Belle Vue to ease their relegation play-off fears.

Mike Bacon

Elite League

Ipswich Witches 56 Belle Vue Aces 37

IPSWICH Witches gave a rampant performance at Foxhall Stadium last night against Belle Vue to ease their relegation play-off fears.

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Needing nothing less than victory in this, their last home Elite League meeting of the season, and under real pressure to get a result, the Witches obliged, and in style, taking all three points off fellow relegation contenders the Aces.

Now just needing two more points from their final four Elite League meetings, a bottom-placed finish could still mathematically happen - but after this effort that is extremely unlikely.

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The Witches still have to travel to Belle Vue, twice, Eastbourne and Lakeside and although their away performances so far have been poor, results in other fixtures would also have to go against the Witches.

Last night however the Witches did all that was asked, starting slowly, but taking a massive grip on proceedings in the middle of the meeting.

The Witches reserves were top drawer, Dawid Stachyra and Carl Wilkinson rattling up 19 points between them. It made a huge difference to the balance of the side.

And with Troy Batchelor producing his best Foxhall performance, Ipswich ended up easy victors.

However they made the worst possible start as Jason Crump and James Wright sped away from the start, with Robert Miskowiak at the back. The new Witches No. 1 suffered a puncture, but he was already out of contention.

Carl Wilkinson and Dawid Stachyra gated well to victory to hit back immediately and Patrick Hougaard was the winner of the next before Scott Nicholls had to pull out all the stops to pass Henning Bager.

But heat five put the smiles back on the Foxhall fans' faces, as Troy Batchelor produced his best race at Foxhall for the Witches, gating and beating World Champion-elect Crump.

However it was a bitter-sweet race for the home side with captain Danny King crashing out on the third turn.

He struggled back to his feet and got his bike off the track, but he was limping badly and received attention and an ice-pack on his right ankle.

Still the Witches trailed, but they turned things round in impressive and commanding style, aided by an exclusion for Aces captain Krzysztof Kasprazak.

He and Miskowiak flew down the home straight in heat six side by side and as they entered the third turn, Miskowiak went flying into the fence.

Referee Chris Gay excluded the visiting man, much to Kasprazak's fury and the Witches rubbed salt into the wounds, with a maximum 5-1 of their own.

It was the beginning of an astonishing run of form for the home side.

Nicholls did wonderfully well to guide the fast-starting Stachyra round in the next as the Witches gained another full house, and when Wilkinson and Batchelor did the same in heat eight, the Witches were suddenly 10 points ahead.

Kasprazak was out for a tactical ride in heat nine and he looked good for six points as he led down the back straight, but he made a complete mess of the fourth turn, almost spinning off, as Batchelor and King nipped through for the Witches fourth consecutive 5-1 maximum.

It was a huge blow for the Aces and just the good fortune Ipswich needed.

Indeed the Witches threatened to make it five maximums on the bounce, but Hougaard roared past Wilkinson on the back straight.

The Witches now led 38-22 and in heat 11 Crump came out for a tactical ride. It was a massive heat.

Crump was away first, as Nicholls forced Wright wide, but the resultant 7-2 to the visitors brought the scores closer at 40-29 The visitors had used all their aces now and the Witches brought the fans to their feet in heat 12 with another 5-1.

Wilkinson, who was proving a revelation at reserve, shot from the start, as Hougaard got the better of Batchelor down the back straight.

But Batchelor wasn't to be denied as he ducked and dived all over the Aces man. On the final bend the young Aussie rounded Hougaard to snatch second place on the line.

In heat 13 although Crump led, Nicholls was all over him like a rash, with Miskowiak third and the three points as good as secured with Kasprzak a disappointed figure at the back, his heat six exclusion clearly having unsettled him.

King and Stachyra made certain of all three points in heat 14 and Crump won the final race.

But this was a great Witches performance from all six Witches and just what was required.

Ipswich: R Miskowiak 7+1, R/R, T Batchelor 13+3, D King 8, S Nicholls 9+2, D Stachyra 9+1, C Wilkinson 10+3.

Belle Vue: J Crump 17, J Wright 4+2, P Hougaard 7, L Tomicek 0, K Kasprzak 4, R Sweetman 1, H Bager 4.

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