All-round strength vital for Witches

DESPITE producing only five heat winners, Ipswich Witches came out on top by three points in a tough fixture against the Swindon Robins at Foxhall Stadium last night.

By Mike Bacon

DESPITE producing only five heat winners, Ipswich Witches came out on top by three points in a tough fixture against the Swindon Robins at Foxhall Stadium last night.

The Suffolk side won 48-45 and it was hard going against a Robins team powerfully led by Australian Grand Prix star Leigh Adams and Pole Seb Ulamek. They raced to eight victories between them and their efforts pushed the Witches all the way as the Wiltshire side at least picked up the bonus point for their troubles.

The Witches trailed early on but got their noses in front in heat eight and although at one stage they threatened to nick the bonus point themselves, after going 10 points ahead after heat 12, a tactical victory ride by Adams in the next put paid to that hope.

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But while the Swindon tail wagged along, the Witches were solid throughout. Every one of the home side contributed, with reserves Jan Jaros and Danny King particularly impressive.

It was tough going in the early stages for the Witches heat leaders, but Chris Louis and Mark Loram came good in heats 10 and 11 as the tide turned in the Witches' favour and they will be glad of the two points for victory, for at one stage Swindon looked as though they would come out on top.

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Richardson led from start to finish in heat one, despite all of Louis' efforts, and Seb Alden made it another Robins heat win, with a good swoop round the outside in the reserves race.

Elbows were flying between Robert Miskowiak and Seb Ulamek as the pair went down the back straight in the next, but it was once again the Swindon man who came out on top as the fired-up Robins made a solid start.

Adams rode to a paid maximum at Blunsdon on Tuesday night and he continued his excellent form when he beat Loram in heat four.

Daniel King chased Alden all the way, but it was the visitors who opened-up a two-point lead.

The home fans at last had a home winner to celebrate as Piotr Protasiewicz gated to the front to beat Richardson, but with Miskowiak producing a disappointing ride at the back, the Witches remained behind.

It was another ominously impressive ride by Adams in the next, as the Ipswich heat leaders had little answer to their Swindon counterparts in the early stages.

The Robins still led by two points and it stayed that way in heat seven, despite all of Loram's efforts to pass the fast-starting Ulamek.

At the back Jaros passed Gafurov on the fourth turn in what was the sixth drawn heat of the night.

At last the Foxhall fans came to life in heat eight, with King and Kim Jansson gating to the front for a much-needed 5-1 maximum to the home side.

Incredibly, despite producing only two race winners up to now, it was the Witches who led 25-23.

It seemed that the bonus point was already on its way back to Wiltshire, after the Robins' impressive first half of the meeting and after a tight first turn, Adams made it three wins on the trot in heat nine.

Ipswich's lead was fragile but skipper Louis rode a terrific race in heat 10, bravely rounding Ulamek on the fourth turn and keeping his nerve to power past him on the outside as the two riders crossed at the start/finish line.

Ipswich were suddenly four ahead and Loram produced his best race of the night, seeing off Richardson, but just as importantly, Jaros rode a battling ride at the back to hold off Mads Korneliussen.

It was 36-30 to Ipswich now, and heat 12 was brought back with all four riders after King hit the deck. He was clearly put there by Gafurov, but referee Frank Ebdon did not see it that way, as all four went back in the re-run.

But justice was done, as Protasiewicz and King gated to the front and suddenly the Witches were now 10 points ahead with a slight sniff of the bonus point, although tactical rides were about to come Swindon's way.

Sure enough Adams came out in heat 13 for a tactical ride and although Louis made a start at the inside, Adams got round him to take the six points for first place.

Loram passed Richardson on turn four to make sure Swindon did not get a 7-2, but the resultant 6-3 to the visitors closed the deficit to seven points.

The Witches just needed a share of the spoils in the penultimate race, and although the impressive Ulamek raced away for his third victory of the night, King and Miskowiak filled the minor positions and the victory was assured for the home side.

Swindon finished with a 5-1 maximum, as Adams completed an 18-point haul, but it was the Witches who had the strength in depth, although Swindon pushed them mighty close.

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