Crunch time for Witches as Oxford visit

IPSWICH Witches will bid to pull themselves off the bottom of the Sky Sports Elite League with victory over a weakened Oxford side at Foxhall Stadium tonight.

By Mike Bacon

IPSWICH Witches will bid to pull themselves off the bottom of the Sky Sports Elite League with victory over a weakened Oxford side at Foxhall Stadium tonight.

The Cheetahs, already without the injured Ales Dryml, will also be missing former Witch Pepe Protasiewicz, who is riding in Russia.

Mildenhall's Shaun Tacey takes the former Grand Prix rider's place.


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It's a sign of the times in speedway, and a lack of rider availability, that Oxford had to sign Protasiewicz this season, knowing full well he would miss meetings for them in England - tonight being one of them.

It was a major reason the Witches didn't sign the Pole at the start of the year, culminating in a weaker-looking Witches team than had been hoped for.

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Indeed for both sides 2007 is already looking to be a write-off.

Hit by injuries and lack of strength at the top end of their teams, Ipswich and Oxford are set to fight over the wooden spoon, although both have already met twice in the knock-out cup, where the Witches knocked out the Cheetahs after a 52-38 win at Foxhall and a 45-all draw at Cowley.

So pride is very much the order of the day at least tonight.

“This is a must-win meeting for us because defeat will leave us firmly rooted at the bottom of the table,” Witches team manager Mike Smillie said.

“We cannot underestimate Oxford because they have former Witches riders in key positions and they will benefit from having those riders with a lot of experience at Foxhall.”

While the Witches have persevered with their personnel, Oxford have already made changes this season with Andy Smith being replaced by young Czech Lubos Tomicek, while tonight Wolves' David Howe is set to guest for Dryml at No.1 for the Cheetahs.

For the Witches, Adam Shields is the guest replacement for Mark Loram.

Shields is always a popular rider with the Witches fans and is in a current good run of form.

If he fires in a big score, the home side should have more than enough in the tank.

Tonight's teams

Ipswich: 1 A Shields, 2 K Jansson, 3 C Louis, 4 Z Suchecki, 5 R Miskowiak, 6 M Rempala, 7 T Kroner

Oxford: 1 D Howe, 2 F Eriksson, 3 S Tacey, 4 S Johnston, 5 J B Jensen, 6 E Andersson, 7 L Tomicek

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