Odds were stacked against the Witches

MISSING three regular riders, this was always likely to be an academic evening for Ipswich Witches and their fans.And so it turned out.The home team did well to fight back and win last night's Elite League Knock-Out Cup quarter-final second leg 49-44 against Reading Racers at Foxhall Stadium.

By Elvin King

MISSING three regular riders, this was always likely to be an academic evening for Ipswich Witches and their fans.

And so it turned out.

The home team did well to fight back and win last night's Elite League Knock-Out Cup quarter-final second leg 49-44 against Reading Racers at Foxhall Stadium.


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But it was an uphill battle to overturn the 13-point deficit from the first leg at Smallmead with the quality of guest available for their injured or unavailable riders.

Coventry's Billy Janniro and Martin Smolinski battled away bravely enough in the very heavy conditions, and scored in similar fashion to the men they replaced - Kim Jansson and Robert Miskowiak.

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But with the rider replacement facility for Jesper B Jensen accruing just five points and Pole Zibi Suchecki sadly out of touch Ipswich did not have the firepower to obtain a sizeable enough victory.

The meeting had all the ingredients of being an interesting affair between two sides side low in the league, and with an intriguing deficit to make up. But Ipswich's makeshift appearance diluted this prospect considerably.

Neither of the sides were likely to make the final, although a two-legged semi-final keeps the season going for the Racers.

Heavy teatime rain lasted at Foxhall for around 40 minutes; 30 minutes more and the track would have been unfit for racing - and Ipswich would no doubt have heaved a sign of relief.

It was an unrecognisable Witches line-up with Jensen breaking two ribs in a crash on the continent, while Jansson hurt his shoulder in a fall in Sweden on Tuesday.

Miskowiak was 'ordered' to ride for Leszno in his native Polish League in place of Leigh Adams, who was required for a Elite League meeting for Swindon. Miskowiak has not been a regular in the Leszno side, but was brought in for this re-arranged meeting.

The Witches, who beat now defunct Oxford on aggregate in the previous round, were on the back foot from the start.

Rory Schlein guested for the injured Matej Zagar and he got the Racers off to a winning start, and with Pole Krzysztof Buczkowski taking a liking to Foxhall on his first visit the visitors were 5-1 up after one race.

Janusz Kolodziej passed Suchecki to gain second place in heat three, before Schlein and Buczkowski notched up a second 5-1 in race five.

Mark Lemon was unhappy with the referee when pushed wide on the second turn of heat seven, and Janniro took no prisoners with a full throttle first two bends in the following race before losing out to Zdenek Simota when almost colliding with the fence.

Chris Louis won heat nine in style when riding for double points to reduce the Reading lead, and he followed that up with a magnificent chase and last lap pass on Kolodziel in the following race.

In heat 11, there was a spectacular three-rider pile-up on the second bend with Smolinski the only rider to escape a tumble. Schlein had treatment for a broken finger before a re-run where he was very tentative, finishing almost a lap behind the Ipswich pair.

Coventry gained a 6-0 in heat 13 when their 'guests' provided the first three finishers with Schlein showing no reaction to his injury.

Ipswich still had their noses in front on the night and with Marcin Rempala showing promising form they enjoyed a 5-1 in the penultimate race with Tobi Kroner the heat winner.

Louis then passed Kolodziej to end a good night's work for himself with an 18-point return.

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