Stunning fightback by Witches

YOU know what it's like?Sometimes there is just no substitute for actually being there.And at Foxhall Stadium yesterday afternoon, Ipswich Witches staged the most dramatic comeback, one is ever likely to see in the sport.

Mike Bacon

YOU know what it's like?

Sometimes there is just no substitute for actually being there.

And at Foxhall Stadium yesterday afternoon, Ipswich Witches staged the most dramatic comeback, one is ever likely to see in the sport.

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And for those Ipswich fans lucky enough to be there, it was simply magical.

Trailing by 21 points to nine after just five races, the Witches - Jarek Hampel apart - resembled a team that looked like it would struggle in the third tier of the sport, the National League, rather than compete with the best in the Elite League.

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Falls, engine failures, tape touching, the Witches were a laughing stock, although laughing was the last thing going on among the majority of their fans in the large Bank Holiday Monday crowd, indeed the mood among many of them was ugly.

At the half-way stage the Witches were nine points behind, but then came a comeback to rival that of The Great Escape.

Having berated his riders at the interval out on the stock car track in front of the crowd, rather than in the pits, Witches team boss Peter Simmons then sat back to see if he would get a reaction.

Boy, even he couldn't have been more delighted.

Daniel King, who had failed to score in his opening two rides, mainly because of bike problems, sped to victory in heat nine, the first race after the interval.

And with Tobi Kroner, another who had so far pulled up no trees, battling past Niels-Kristian Iversen for a 5-1 maximum, the Witches reduced the arrears to five.

Dawid Stachyra, almost taken into the fence by partner Piotr Swiderski, claimed victory in heat 11, before Kroner and Stachyra brought the crowd to their feet and the Witches to within three points at 36-39 with just three heats to go, with another maximum victory.

The crowd's mood had turned full circle in what had become a pulsating climax to an extraordinary meeting.

Hampel won heat 13 and King heat 14, with Claus Vissing falling while in third place to gift the Witches a point and set up a last-heat decider with the scores 43 to Ipswich, 44 to Peterborough.

You could sense the confidence had completely drained away from a Peterborough side that had been destroying the Witches just an hour previous.

So when Hampel and King lined up at the tapes for the deciding heat 15, few were surprised to see Hampel clamp Peterborough's No.1 Kenneth Bjerre on the white line, while King roared round the outside for match-winning 5-1 maximum and a 48-45 Witches victory.

The hugs and dances of delight back in the pits among the riders, with King getting the bumps and Hampel celebrating with wheelies, was in complete contrast to the first half of the meeting.

Indeed Ipswich had begun so sloppily, it was embarrassing. Stachyra hardly got off the start in heat two, while Carl Wilkinson didn't, as he seized an engine.

King hit the tapes and started 15 metres back in heat three, from whence he never moved because he had a lose rear sprocket, with Kroner wheeling all the way to the first turn like some sort of acrobatic trick rider.

Peterborough were six ahead, and they made it 10 when Swiderski fell off on his own in heat four to get himself excluded.

In the re-run it was even more comical, as Wilkinson made a decent gate then fell off in the middle of the bend.

King's footrest broke in heat five, by which time some Ipswich fans no doubt wanted to break a few Witches necks, such was the incompetence of the display and the Suffolk side were 21-9 down.

Thankfully while all around were doing their best to gift Peterborough the points, Hampel showed his class with a tactical ride win in heat six and when Swiderski showed real guts in heat seven, Ipswich had reduced the deficit to nine.

Even then only the very real Witches optimist would have given them a prayer of winning the meeting.

But who needs optimism when you can have a Pete Simmons team talk?

That talk came one heat later, the rest as they say . . . is history.

Cracking stuff, cracking meeting, roll on Thursday week.

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