Louis and Loram's efforts not enough

CHRIS Louis, the Ipswich Witches' skipper, admitted that his side now have it all to do if they are to reach the Elite League play-offs at the end of the season.

By Elvin King

CHRIS Louis, the Ipswich Witches' skipper, admitted that his side now have it all to do if they are to reach the Elite League play-offs at the end of the season.

A 51-39 defeat at Belle Vue last night, when the Manchester-based club also collected the aggregate bonus point with two 5-1 results in the final three heats, has made it an uphill task for the Witches to finish in the top four. Louis and Mark Loram did all they could to stem the tide and give Ipswich a victory that they fancied, but in the end they returned on their long journey to Suffolk with their tails between their legs.

Louis said: “It looks as though we need at least two away wins in our half-dozen matches left on our travels to be involved with the play-offs.

“This of course is as long as we maintain a 100% home record until the end of the league season.

“We fancied our chances of collecting something at Belle Vue, but it wasn't to be and the defeat - and the loss of the extra point - is a big blow.

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“We obviously target Oxford as a place where we can win, and possibly Wolverhampton, if the track is more to our liking than on our last visit.”

Louis and Loram combined in the final race of an exciting televised meeting, needing to force a drawn heat to take home the bonus point after winning the correspondent fixture at Foxhall Stadium 52-43.

But in an eventful finale World Champion-elect Jason Crump won from the start with Loram passing Simon Stead and then doing his best to hold up the home rider so that Louis could come through for third place.

It was a full-throttle affair with all four riders giving their all to the cause and in the dash to the line Stead went past Loram on the run-in with the Ipswich man doing well to avoid running into the back of Crump when the Australia slowed as he approached the chequered flag. Words were exchanged in the pits afterwards. Loram took a tumble after the race had finished as he did his best to avoid Crump's back wheel.

Crump had earlier broken the track record in heat four, which he set himself in September 2003, while Louis clocked the fastest time by a visiting rider in the previous race when he was timed at 58.9 seconds. Piotr 'Pepe' Protasiewicz has struggled in televised meetings this year failing to hardly score a point in the Grand Prix series and the cameras appeared to affect his form again when the Witches' number one suffered two last places and only four points.

And with his fellow Pole Robert Miskowiak also not have the best of nights Ipswich are suffering at the moment from their foreigners' inability to cope with their current heavy schedule.

Daniel King had one exceptional ride when he held off Simon Stead for a lap and when passed quickly went back ahead again of the Great Britain International.

This was Ipswich's only heat advantage of the night and came in race six to reduce the deficit to four points.

A succession of drawn races followed with King missing the gate completely in race eight when brought in in place of Tobi Kroner by team manager Mike Smillie to give Ipswich an advantage. Kim Jansson won the race but King was some way behind.

Hopes were still high of at least gaining the extra point going into race 13 after Loram and Louis had continued to win races but when Crump and Stead made lightning breaks in race 13 the Aces gained in confidence.

Their fans, attending in bigger numbers than usual, joined in the fun and although Louis halted their progress and kept Ipswich in line for the bonus point with a penultimate race victory, the home side sent their supporters home happy with that controversial 5-1 in the final race.

Ipswich ride away to Poole tomorrow when they expect to field the same side and on paper it will be a harder task for the Witches to gain any reward at the Dorset track. They complete a busy week when they entertain Reading Bulldogs at Foxhall on Thursday, with the Berkshire club the only side to lower the Witches' colours at their own track this eason.

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