Witches keep Aces fighting for safety
IPSWICH last night ensured the Elite League relegation battle will go down to the wire.They lost a dramatic last-heat decider at Belle Vue but the Manchester club still need another point to avoid bottom spot when the teams meet again at Kirkmamshulme Lane on September 28.
IPSWICH last night ensured the Elite League relegation battle will go down to the wire.
They lost a dramatic last-heat decider at Belle Vue but the Manchester club still need another point to avoid bottom spot when the teams meet again at Kirkmamshulme Lane on September 28.
Belle Vue needed all three points last night to guarantee safety but now still have to gain something from their final match with the Witches after basement rivals Poole beat Peterborough 49-41.
The Aces led by a point going into last night's final race but then lost World Championship leader Jason Crump at the first attempt to stage heat 15.
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Crump, who had been unbeaten in his first four races, went down on the first bend after a collision with Ipswich's Troy Batchelor.
Crump suffered a suspected dislocated shoulder and a friction burn and was taken to hospital.
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In the re-run, he was replaced by Patrick Hougaard and the Witches scented their first victory at the track for five years.
But home skipper Krzysztof Kasprzak flew out of the gate to take the chequered flag ahead of Scott Nicholls and Batchelor to seal the narrowest of victories.
Runaway Grand Prix leader Crump won the opening race in 57 seconds, the fastest time of the season at Belle Vue and just 0.2 of a second outside his own track record.
In a match which saw the lead change hands four times, Belle Vue went ahead with a 3-2 advantage in the reserves race after Dawid Stachyra had fallen on the first bend and was disqualified from the re-run during which home rider Joel Parsons dropped a chain.
The Witches hit back with a 5-1 from Nicholls and Batchelor in heat three to take the lead, which they held for several races thanks to Carl Wilkinson taking Thomasz Picsz on the second lap in heat five.
Stachyra took another first bend tumble in heat six and team-mate Danny King was unable to prevent Belle Vue regaining the lead through Crump and James Wright.
The Nicholls/Batchelor partnership put the Witches back in front with a 4-2 in heat seven during which Nicholls superbly rounded Kasprzak coming off the fourth bend.
Batchelor spearheaded another 4-2 in the following race when never-say-die Wilkinson picked up a good third place with a last-gasp dash to the line to pass Picsz.
A home 4-2 in heat nine reduced the Witches' lead to a single point and another in heat 11 put the Aces into a lead - and this time they were never to be headed again.
Belle Vue had been banking on a heat advantage in the 13th race but although Crump won, Kasprzak went wide on the fourth bend and dropped to last with Robert Miskowiak and Danny King taking the minor places.
Wilkinson's fall in heat 14 prevented Ipswich from gaining anything from the race despite Nicholls taking the flag to set up the last race decider and a thrilling finish to the night.
Belle Vue Aces scorers: Jason Crump 12, James Wright 6+1, Patrick Hougaard 8+1, Rider Replacement for Lubos Tomicek, Krzysztof Kasprzak 11, Joel Parsons 1, Tomasz Picsz 7+1.
Ipswich Witches scorers: Robert Miskowiak 8, Rider Replacement for Toby Kroner, Troy Batchelor 11+3, Scott Nicholls 13, Danny King 6+1, Dawid Stachyra 1+1, Carl Wilkinson 5+2.