Hammers end Witches' top two hopes

LAKESIDE ended an eventful speedway meeting at Foxhall Stadium tonight with just four fit riders - but still did enough to dent any lingering hopes Ipswich had of a top two Elite League finish to the season.

Elvin King

Elite League B: Ipswich Witches 44 Lakeside Hammers 48

LAKESIDE ended an eventful speedway meeting at Foxhall Stadium tonight with just four fit riders - but still did enough to dent any lingering hopes Ipswich had of a top two Elite League finish to the season.

Injury, illness and non-availability ravaged both sides as Ipswich suffered their fourth home league defeat of the campaign.

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Lakeside are virtually guaranteed a top two place - and a play-off, semi-final, home one-off meeting - and look to be the main challengers to league leaders Poole for the title.

With key Ipswich rider Jarek Hampel feeling the effects of a long season after numerous flights across Europe is this a sign that the Ipswich season petering out?

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Okay, they have done well - very well after last season - to be in a play-off position.

But with an almost certain third or fourth place finish it will be a huge task now for them to gain any silverware from the season based on the current evidence.

A win at Wolverhampton in a televised meeting on Monday might perk things up but there must be a doubt over Tobi Kroner's involvement after he damaged a finger last night.

The visitors started with four regular riders missing and using two guests, while Ipswich had two men out - the ill Hampel and Robert Miskowiak told that he to ride in a play-off meeting for his Polish club.

The Witches were unable to bring in a guest for Hampel as all Grand Prix riders were off to Poland for tomorrow's GP meeting and an Under-23 international at Swindon took away the likes of Chris Holder and Tai Woffinden.

And it got worse for both sides with early meeting crashes ruling Kroner and Ricky Kling out of proceedings.

After a fortnight without a meeting in this fragmented campaign the Witches were perhaps a tad rusty and took time to get going with the Hammers striking home a 5-1 in the opening heat after Swiderski had been passed by Andreas Jonsson.

The passing movement on the third lap left Kroner with a problem and he lost control and crashed into the fence. The German suffered a suspected broken finger and had to pull out of the rest of the meeting - adding to the Witches problems.

In the re-run, Lakeside skipper Leigh Lanham, who lives a stone's throw from Foxhall Stadium, gated with Jonsson for a comfortable maximum.

A drawn heat followed with Kling - a high scorer on his last visit to Suffolk - running out of space on the run-in to the finishing line chasing from the back. He struck the fence and was unable to ride again because of the injuries he sustained.

But with Kauko Nieminen riding so well at reserve, Lakeside were able to cover for Kling better than Ipswich were for Kroner.

Schlein won successive heats in three and four, but with King's Lynn rider Simon Lambert coming in last in the next race the Hammers stretched their lead to four points.

Both sides had riders from Lynn as guests with Lakeside's Tomas Topinka having far more experience than the plucky Lambert.

Piotr Swiderski showed the necessary grit needed in the Witches camp riding on despite a badly bruised leg from last week's frightening fall.

The Pole won heat six, and with Chris Schramm passing guest Edward Kennett for third place the meeting was kept very much alive.

Schlein passed Topinka in the next race but suffered a devastating engine failure on his run-in to the line as the away team regained their four-point lead.

A good pen or pencil was required by supporters with virtually every race needing to be amended by the number of changes from the programmed sides. It was a nightmare for team managers as well with a lack of riders to cover the gaps.

Steve Johnston passed Lanham in heat eight in style, but the Hammers picked us a 4-2 with Schramm last. Reserve Schramm was out in the next race in a rider replacement role for absent Witches number one Hampel. And he lost out in a titanic battle with Kennett before coming off second best in a third race won by impressive Workington Premier League rider Nieminen.

With the home side now ten points adrift, Swiderski took a tactical ride for double points in heat ten. But he was up against the all conquering Jonsson, who was taking a rider replacement ride and the Swede won well after a lightning start.

Kennett was withdrawn at this stage on medical grounds after his earlier fall to restrict the visitors to just four riders.

The commanding Jonsson won heat 11 before Ipswich threw their last throw of the dice by bringing in Schlein as a tactical substitute. He started 15 yards adrift and rode for double points, but failed by half a wheel to pass Topinka for third place.

Rider replacement for Hampel accrued nine points while for Shields for Lakeside six plus 2. Lakeside could only muster one rider in heat 13, which meeting-winner Jonsson won to put him in good heart for tomorrow's GP.

A drawn heat 14 confirmed the Hammers win, and in heat 15 maximum man Jonsson was given a rest - with Ipswich claiming a 5-1.

Ipswich: P Swiderski 16, T Kroner 0, Rider replacement for J Hampel, S Lambert 0, R Schlein 11+2, S Johnston 12+1, C Schramm 5+2.

Lakeside: A Jonsson 15, L Lanham 5+2, Rider replacement for A Shields, T Topinka 9+1, E Kennett 3+1, R Kling 0, K Nieminen 16+1.

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