Have pair ridden their last Witches meetings?

Newcastle Diamonds 44

Ipswich Witches 46

Relegation\Promotion play-off final, first leg

SPEEDWAY: it all came good for Ipswich Witches in the end.

With five races to go and with two riders in the sick bay - and trailing by eight points - their existence in the Elite League looked on the line at Brough Park last night.

But they rallied well to earn two 5-1’s in the final four heats to take a slender lead into the second leg at Foxhall in three days time.

Commercially Ipswich will be happy the two-legged affair is still alive, but visiting team manager Pete Simmons admitted his relief. He said: “Perhaps my job was on the line at one time!

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“But we juggled things around and got things right by the end.

“Dawid Stachyra landed on the floor with a whack, but stuck at it to play a vital part and against a home team that put in a fantastic effort.

“We might have to call up Ritchie Hawkins to ride for us again on Thursday in the second leg because of the injuries we suffered.

“The greasy, damp conditions caught us out early on, and Newcastle will know that we are not invincible at home so the play-off is still up for grabs.”

Witches director of speedway Chris Louis acted as mechanic for skipper Daniel King and he expected his riders to learn from the skipper who rode at Newcastle two weeks ago in an open meeting.

Louis said: “The lads did not seem to learn from Danny’s advice.

“Some did not approach the meeting right, and at one time we looked as though we would be starting the second leg with a deficit.

“The track staff did well to get it prepared in the circumstances and the home lads just got on with it.”

Nicholls said: “When you were behind it was difficult to pass and at this stage of the season you don’t want to take any chances.”

Ipswich tracked the side they programmed, but lost Chris Slabon after three-quarters of a lap in heat one and Robert Miskowiak after he also hit the deck in his first outing.

Slabon suffered a shoulder injury with the Pole only just returned to the track after suffering a hand problem.

His fellow countryman, Miskowiak damaged ribs in a fall that did not look anything like as painful.

Not only did this put Ipswich up against it last night it will also test their ability to track a fully competitive side in Thursday’s second leg at Foxhall Stadium.

Whether Miskowiak or Slabon ride for Ipswich again is debatable with their inclusion in the Witches side next season far from certain.

Newcastle brought in experienced campaigner David Howe as a guest for the injured Mark Lemon.

And fellow Scunthorpe rider Jan Gravesen took the place of Dakota North – the Australian losing his fight to regain full fitness. Gravesen scored heavily when riding at Brough Park earlier in the season when he was with Redcar.

The start was delayed to let everybody in with the meeting catching the imagination of the Toon public and programmes being sold out some time before the official 6.30pm start time.

The track was slick with rain around; with Larsen making the most of the conditions to create a new track record in the re-run of the first heat after Slabon had taken a spectacular tumble on the third bend when he landed on his left shoulder after being flown high in the air.

Conditions made for a pretty lukewarm meetng with often 20 yards between each rider on the finishing line, and five of the first six races having to be re-run.

Stachyra and Hawkins – the Ipswich reserves – were guaranteed a busy night following the early departures of Slabon and Miskowiak.

Stachyra in particular was up to the task despite taking a tumble himself, and will have done his chances of keeping his place in the Ipswich team next season a power of good with a resilient display.

Nicholls, who last rode here in 1994, and King showed their class as the meeting wore on but Ales Dryml for all his experience was unable to make a significant impact.

The Diamonds used the rider replacement facility for the injured Jason King – Daniel’s brother – and this accrued four points

The locals went home quite happy, but it is Ipswich who are expected to have the last laugh on Thursday.

Scorers: Newcastle: K Larsen 12, rider replacement J King, D Sneddon 4, R Bach 12, D Howe 11+1, J Graveson 1+1, A McKinna 4.

Ipswich: S Nicholls 12+1, C Slabon 0, D King 13, A Dryml 3+3, R Miskowiak 0, D Stachyra 12+2, R Hawkins 6.

Heat details

1 Larsen, Nicholls, Sneddon. Slabon (f/exc), 61.0 4-2

2 Stachyra, McKinna, Hawkins, Gravesen, 64.3 6-6

3 Bach, King, Dryml. Sneddon (f./exc) 62.8 9-9

4 Howe, Hawkins, McKinna. Miskowiak (f/exc) 63.6 13-11

5 Bach, Nicholls, Sneddon. Stachyra (f/exc) 61.9 17-13

6 Larsen, Hawkins, Stachyra. McKinna 62.6 20-16

7 King, Howe, Gravesen, Dryml 63.2 23-19

8 Howe, Stachyra, McKinna. Hawkins (fell) 63.1 27-21

9 Bach, Stachyra, Sneddon, Hawkins 63.3 31-23

10 Larsen, King, Dryml, Gravesen 63.0 34-26

11 Nicholls, Howe, Hawkins, McKinna 61.6 36-30

12 King, Stachyra, Sneddon, Gravesen 64.2 37-35

13 Nicholls, Larsen, Howe, Hawkins 62.2 40-38

14 Bach, Stachyra, Dryml, Gravesen 63.7 43-41

15 King, Nicholls, Larsen, Bach 62.4 44-46

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