It's Poole away for Witches in play-offs

RORY Schlein's brilliant heat 15 ride grabbed a 45-45 draw for the Evening Star Witches in the second leg of last night's double-header, but it is the Poole Pirates the Witches will now face in Monday night's televised Elite League semi-final play-off.

Mike Bacon

RORY Schlein's brilliant heat 15 ride grabbed a 45-45 draw for the Evening Star Witches in the second leg of last night's double-header, but it is the Poole Pirates the Witches will now face in Monday night's televised Elite League semi-final play-off.

Needing to beat Coventry Bees by 21 points after their win over Poole in the first meeting - so as to finish third in the table and race Lakeside rather than the Pirates - the Witches put in a brave effort, but tired after an exhaustive night and a controversial heat nine went against them.

Going into heat nine, the Witches were four points ahead, but Robert Miskowiak was excluded after clashing on the final bend with Filip Sitera when looking for a gap to join partner Davey Watt at the front.


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It looked harsh on the Witches' Polish star and instead of taking an eight-point lead, the Witches still only led by four. It seemed to knock the stuffing out of them.

From then on in a 21-point victory was never on the cards and only Schlein's heroics in the last race, as he passed Chris Harris, secured the home side a point.

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Before the start former Witch Hans Andersen had cried off sick and in keeping with the rather absurd merry-go-round of riders on the night Bjarne Pedersen, who had ridden for Poole in the first leg, replaced him.

The meeting started badly for the home side with Steve Johnston taking a fall on the first bend of lap two while pressing Pedersen. The Australian was excluded and in the re-run the Bees sped off to a 5-1 to put the Witches up against it from the off.

But Johnston got himself back on his feet to win heat two alongside Chris Schramm to level things up and the Witches took the lead with the flying Miskowiak comfortably winning heat three.

There was real hope for the Suffolk side as Schlein and Schramm put the Witches six up in heat four and requiring another 15 points to seal that clash at Lakeside. But Coventry had other ideas and they hit back immediately in heat five with a 5-1 of their own.

It was now topsy-turvy stuff and a brilliant ride by Schramm saw him re-pass after getting passed by Billy Janniro in heat six as the Witches once more put themselves six points ahead.

Janniro was in the thick of the action and he, Johnston and Schlein, had a great battle in heat seven. Schlein went from third to first in the next but a tiring Schramm, now into his ninth ride of the evening, was passed by Josh Auty.

The drama in heat nine got the crowd buzzing and many closer to the action than referee Chris Gay felt he had got Miskowiak's exclusion wrong.

Gay's decision knocked the home side as Coventry immediately levelled the scores in heat ten and although Ipswich regained the lead in heat 12, Pedersen and Harris got the 4-2 in the final race to level the meeting.

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