Pepe's key role for Witches tonight

PIOTR 'Pepe' Protasiewicz will have a key role when Ipswich Witches open their Sky Sports Elite League campaign at re-vamped Oxford tonight.The 31-year-old Pole took the Sandy Lane track apart in the corresponding meeting last year, scorching to 19 points.

By Elvin King

PIOTR 'Pepe' Protasiewicz will have a key role when Ipswich Witches open their Sky Sports Elite League campaign at re-vamped Oxford tonight.

The 31-year-old Pole took the Sandy Lane track apart in the corresponding meeting last year, scorching to 19 points. But when he returned to Oxford for the 'B' fixture he failed to spark and limped round for just three points.

Ironically, the Witches lost the first meeting 48-46, but came out on top 47-45 on their second visit.


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It is likely to be close tonight, although the visitors will fancy their chances as Oxford lost challenge meetings against Swindon home and away last week.

Six-time world champion Tony Rickardsson will be a big danger to Ipswich's hopes of getting maximum points from a rare away start to their league season.

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Protasiewicz was purring round the Foxhall Stadium track last Thursday with a faultless maximum against Mildenhall.

He carried on with two heat wins at West Row in the return fixture on Sunday, and escaped a heavy crash with no ill-effects.

Now back in the Grand Prix series, Protasiewicz will be out to get in a couple of blows over Rickardsson before they lock horns in the battle for the sport's top crown.

Oxford will provide much stiffer opposition than Mildenhall, although they do not look the strongest side in the Elite League this year.

Ipswich asset Rickardsson is riding for the Cheetahs for the first six weeks of the season before concentrating on the Swedish and Polish Leagues and trying to win the world title for a record seventh time.

The 35-year-old flew back to his native Sweden at the end of last week, and sent his engines to Denmark for tuning. He only managed single-figure scores against Swindon, but will be looking to score much more freely tonight.

Aaron Lanney, who has connections with Poole boss Matt Ford, has taken over as promoter at Oxford from Nigel Wagstaff and reinstalled the traditional Cheetahs name.

He said: “It is important we put our two challenge meetings against Swindon behind us. We never really got going in either match and our gating was poor.

“We had a private practice session this week to iron out a few problems, and I am sure we will be ready for Ipswich.

“Our season starts against the Witches, and we must step up to the plate.”

Ipswich are pleased with the form shown by new signing Jan Jaros, while fellow reserve Daniel King has had an abundance of meetings both with Ipswich and his doubling-up club Mildenhall.

Robert Miskowiak miraculously escaped injury from a horror crash at Sandy Lane last year when he was flown over the fence like a rag doll.

His points along with fellow second string Kim Jansson will have a big bearing on the outcome tonight, while Mark Loram can be relied upon to score consistently on his first competitive meeting for the Witches for 17 seasons.

The Witches and Cheetahs face a quick-fire return as the two teams meet again at Foxhall Stadium tomorrow in a meeting sponsored by Anglian Self Drive.

Tonight's line-ups

Oxford: D Howe, E Andersson, D Watt, A Skornicki, T Rickardsson, A Pietrasko and L Tomicek. Team manager: Graeme Gordon

Ipswich: C Louis, K Jansson, P Protasiewicz, R Miskowiak, M Loram, J Jaros and D King. Team manager: Mike Smillie

n THIRTEEN-TIMES world darts champion Phil Taylor will be the guest of honour when Poole open their Elite League campaign against Arena-Essex tonight.

'The Power' is in action in his own sport at nearby Bournemouth 24 hours later, and becomes an honorary No.8 for the Pirates.

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