Home defeat 'disaster' for Witches

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

Ipswich Witches 43, Swindon Robins 50

IT may have made gripping television for armchair speedway fans, but tonight'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 home defeat to open fears that this campaign might see the Witches suffer in the league in similar fashion to the previous two campaigns.

Swindon are 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.

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

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

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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 Miskowiak made up for the failure to score of 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 gate 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 Hampel and Kroner in a 5-1 position round the opening bends he allowed the race to run for another comfortable home maximum.

Robins team manager Alun Rossiter did not wait to bring in Adams as a tactical rider, and the Grand Prix star cleaned up comprehensively enough in race five to score six points and give the visitors a 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 first bend 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 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 trailed in last with Schramm the rider who challenged for third place and came 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

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: 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.

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