Gripping television but Witches lose

Ipswich Witches 43 Swindon Robins 50IT may have made gripping television for armchair speedway fans, but last night's Elite League meeting was a disaster for Ipswich Evening Star Witches and their fans.

Elvin King

Ipswich Witches 43 Swindon Robins 50

IT may have made gripping television for armchair speedway fans, but last night's Elite League meeting was a disaster for Ipswich Evening Star Witches and their fans.

They got their home league campaign off to the worst possible start with a defeat that opens fears this campaign might see the Witches suffer in the league in similar fashion to their previous two campaigns.


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Swindon are by far not the strongest team in the league on paper - yet they hit back to brush the Witches aside with 5-1's in the last two heats.

After looking certain winners when ten points ahead after just four heats Ipswich capitulated as they have in recent meetings.

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After starring in virtually every other meeting this season Piotr Swiderski failed to sparkle and his team mates all fell away after bright starts.

Proceedings did not start too well for the Witches when Swiderski touched the tapes at the start of heat one, and had to come from 15 metres back in the re-run. But Robert Miskowiak made up for the failure to score by his team mate by gaining the notable scalp of Swindon's number one Leigh Adams.

Chris Schramm declared himself fit to make a come back after injuring his right foot, and he made the start of race two with Tobi Kroner. But a mistake by Schramm on the second circuit allowed Joel Parsons to come through for second place.

Then Ipswich went for the jugular and hammered home two 5-1's with Chris Louis and Steve Johnston making the best gates in heat three.

Travis McGowan came close to jumping the start in heat four with referee Chris Gay doing well to allow the race to run before taking any action. With Jarek Hampel and Kroner in a 5-1 position round the opening bends he allowed the race to run for another comfortable home maximum.

But they never gained another heat advantage, and Robins team manager Alun Rossiter did not wait to bring in Adams as a tactical rider.

The Grand Prix star cleaned up comprehensively enough in race five to score six points and give the visitors their first heat advantage.

Swiderski was pushed wide by McGowan on the first bend of the next race to spin off before remounting in a race won by the flying Miskowiak to maintain Ipswich's healthy lead, before Hampel beat Mads Korneliussen in heat seven when the visiting rider was onboard Adams' machine.

James Wright flew out of the second bend to win heat eight as the drawn races continued - and there was another in the next outing when Johnston spun off when third on the third lap.

Miskowiak and Batchelor collided going into the first bend of heat ten and both ended in a heap by the fence. In the re-run, the Robins flew from the gate to put the meeting back in the melting pot as Miskowiak fell when last on the fourth bend.

Just when Ipswich looked to have imposed themselves again with a 5-1 in heat 11, Kroner hit the slippery stuff on the third and fourth bends when in second place to slide off and get trapped under his machine.

Hampel had to try and beat Adams again in the re-start, a feat he could not manage against the fast-gating Swindon skipper, and when Kroner again showed his concern for the third and fourth bends in heat 12, Louis' courageous win only enabled Ipswich to hang on to their one-point advantage.

With Adams in two of the last three races, Swindon were in with a big shout of collecting three points for an away victory. The Australian won heat 13 in another drawn race, and much depended on Johnston in the penultimate race if Ipswich were going to hang on for a win.

But Johnston hit heavy traffic going into the first bend and trailed in last with Schramm the rider who challenged for third place - coming close to passing Parsons on the third lap in a meeting-winning 5-1 to the visitors.

Ipswich needed a maximum in the last heat to snatch a victory but conceded another 5-1.

Full marks to the Foxhall faithful who were not swayed to watch proceedings from the comfort of their armchairs and turned up on an off night - with Ipswich's regular home night being on a Thursday.

The attendance was reduced by around a third, which is a shame and says something about speedway presentations or facilities as live television has little effect on crowd numbers in other sports.

TV spectators will be left with the idea that Foxhall's terraces are regularly bare, which is not the case with the Witches fans base one of the best in the league.

It was the first live coverage of a Foxhall meeting since 2006 - with the Ipswich management receiving compensation in the shape of league sponsorship money from Sky Sports.

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches are still hoping of gaining something from last night's meeting at Foxhall Stadium as they are going to lodge an official protest at Swindon's use of Joel Parsons.

They claim that the Sheffield rider was not eligible to guest and score seven crucial points for the Robins from the reserve berth.

It is understood referee Chris Gay was contacted by Speedway Control Bureau manager Graham Reeve prior to the meeting confirming that Parsons could ride.

This is because the British Speedway Promoters' Association failed to issue an amended 'interim' average for Parsons until yesterday - too late for Swindon to change their use of guest for the injured Theo Pijper.

Parsons' 'interim' average after three home and three away official Sheffield 2008 fixtures is 6.48, which equates to 3.48 in Elite League terms.

Cory Gathercole, the unavailable Swindon number eight, has an average of 3.01, and any guest should be less than that figure, which Parsons' was before he completed six official meetings.

“I am absolutely disgusted,” said Witches promoter John Louis. “The rules are crystal clear and were in use last season.

“I rang Shaun Tacey about getting a race jacket back and he told me that he had been asked to guest for Swindon last night, but after getting his kit ready was then rang back to say he was not needed.

“I am not accusing Swindon of any underhand dealing, but rules are rules.”

Mike Smillie, the former Witches team manager and now an advisor, said: “It is incidents like this that make me glad I am not actively involved in a sport like speedway.”

Parsons completed his sixth Sheffield meeting on April 5, and his new interim average came into effect seven days later but was not confirmed by the BSPA until yesterday.

“The BSPA appear to have made an oversight, but that does not alter the fact that Parsons' average was too high for him to ride last night,” stormed Louis. “Even if they didn't know until yesterday, Swindon still had enough opportunity to track a legal rider.“

Unless the SCB change their minds Ipswich would not appear to have any hope of altering the result, although they are going to press their claim forcefully and have Parsons' points deducted .

But regardless of the rights and wrongs of Parsons' points it was still a pretty woeful final 11 heats for the Witches.

And skipper Chris Louis promised action to get Ipswich back in gear again.

He said: “Things have got to be put right. Last night was very disappointing, and we have thrown away meetings with second half collapses far too often this year.

“I did not expect a team like Swindon to come to Foxhall and win. We have to do something.”

Chris Schramm made a return to the track after suffering afoot injury, and the gritty competitor said: “I had to buy some new boots, but the injury felt better than I expected.”

Ipswich ride at Swindon on Thursday and then Peterborough on Monday, and by the time they entertain a strong Eastbourne team on Thursday week they could be cut adrift at the foot of the table.

Elite League A

Ipswich Witches 43 Swindon Robins 50

Ipswich: R Miskowiak 7, P Swiderski 2 (1), C Louis 11 (1), S Johnston 4 (1),

J Hampel 10, C Schramm 2, T Kroner 7 (1).

Swindon: L Adams 17, J Wright 5 (1), T Batchelor 6 (2), M Korneliussen 10

(1), T McGowan 5, J Parsons 7 (4), S Alden 0.

Referee: Chris Gay

Conditions: tricky on third/fourth bends.

Attendance: 650

Witches rider of the night: Chris Louis - the skipper won three races to regain his form.

HEAT DETAILS SCORE

1 Miskowiak, Adams, Wright, Swiderski**, 61.3 3-3

2 Kroner, Parsons, Schramm, Alden, 62.0 7-5

3 Louis, Johnston, Batchelor, Korneliussen, 62.7 12-6

4 Hampel, Kroner, McGowan, Alden, 61.5 17-7

5 Adams* Johnston, Louis, Wright, 61.2 20-13

6 Miskowiak, McGowan, Parsons, Swiderski, 62.6 23-16

7 Hampel, Korneliussen, Batchelor, Schramm, 61.8 26-19

8 Wright, Kroner, Swiderski, Alden, 62.1 29-22

9 Louis, McGowan, Parsons. Johnston (f/exc), No time, race awarded

32-25

10 Korneliussen, Batchelor, Swiderski. Miskowiak (fell), 61.9

33-30

11 Adams, Hampel, Wright. Kroner (f/exc), Schramm (exc/tapes), 61.3

35-34

12 Louis, Batchelor, Parsons, Kroner, 62.7 38-37

13 Adams, Hampel, Miskowiak, McGowan, 62.3 41-40

14 Korneliussen, Parsons, Schramm, Johnston, 63.4 42-45

15 Adams, Korneliessen, Louis, Hampel 61.1 43-50

* = tactical ride - double points.

** = tapes offence - started 15 mtrs adrift.

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