Play-off hopes all but over after loss

IPSWICH Witches can surely wave goodbye to any lingering hopes of an Elite League play-off place after this thoroughly disappointing display at Swindon yesterday.

By Elvin King

IPSWICH Witches can surely wave goodbye to any lingering hopes of an Elite League play-off place after this thoroughly disappointing display at Swindon yesterday.

Not for the first time in the last couple of months it was virtually a one-man show, with acting skipper Mark Loram saving the visitors from a massacre.

Two 5-1s in the final two races to the Swindon Robins meant that the home side kept alive their hopes of collecting the aggregate bonus point as well as the win.


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And with the unbeatable Leigh Adams lining up to face the plucky Loram in a run-off after the aggregate scores ended level, there was never any real doubt that Ipswich would lose out on another extra point.

Piotr 'Pepe' Protasiewicz and Daniel King had one good ride each, but otherwise it was a tale of woe for Ipswich fans watching the action unfold live on their television screens.

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Sky Sports must have been over the moon at the way the meeting ended in exciting fashion, but the Ipswich riders were left to hang their heads in the pits.

Acting skipper Loram found it hard to disguise his feelings. He said as diplomatically as he could: “I am sure the other riders are trying their hardest, but over the last few weeks we have not been doing the business on our travels.

“It is just not good enough and it has cost us a play-off place.”

Ipswich were without Chris Louis, who suffered a broken collar bone guesting for Belle Vue at Arena-Essex in a revised fixture at Purfleet on Friday.

And on this evidence they are going to miss him badly, with only the most staunch supporter still clinging on to hopes of a top-four finish.

The rider replacement facility accrued six points, with every rider apart from Protasiewicz eligible to have an extra ride. Rider replacement for Swindon totalled a paid nine points.

Heat one saw Protasiewicz make the best start from the inside but Grand Prix star Adams went beyond him going down the back straight.

The home reserves gained a 5-1 in heat two, with 2005 Grand Prix rider Tomasz Chrzanowski getting the better of Daniel King going round the second bend.

There meeting suffered a delay when Russian Renat Gafurov locked up in heat three. Kim Jansson took avoiding action and needed time to recover from his spill. The Swede suffered a head injury riding in Poland on Sunday and although he took his place in the re-run he aggravated the injury and pulled out of the meeting before his final programmed ride. In the re-run, Mads Korneliussen won from the tapes.

Tobi Kroner made the best start from the inside in heat four, but had been overtaken by both Swindon riders by the third bend. Loram made up ground after a dreadful start to make the most of a poor attempt at team riding and pip Chrzanowski on the line.

Ipswich gained their first heat win when Protasiewicz flew from third to first to take the chequered flag in race five, but with Jansson at the back Ipswich failed to make up any ground.

Loram outgated Adams in the next heat and then kept the Australian out of his way on the second bend. But Adams his back strongly and went by Loram as the riders completed their second circuit.

The Witches had a lift in heat seven when Loram came in for his rider replacement ride and Ipswich gained their first heat advantage.

But Robins fans were soon cheering again, when the home team gained a comfortable 5-1 in heat eight, with Kroner a long way off the pace.

Loram rode for double points in heat nine and won from the tapes. And with King doing well to come second, Ipswich - with the aid of the tactical rider rule - had pulled back from ten down to being three behind.

However, the recovery was short-lived, with the home pair of Adams and Watt making by far the best starts in heat 10 to put Swindon 35-28 ahead with five heats left.

Ipswich brought in King in place of Jansson, but it was Swindon who moved further into the lead when Ulamek beat his fellow Pole Protasiewicz from the tapes.

Miskiowiak was a rather surprise wearer of the black and white helmet colour to signify that he was riding for double points in heat 12, which was drawn.

At least the extra point looked safe for Ipswich, but they finished badly. Heat 13 saw the previously unbeaten Adams beat Loram, with Ulamek finishing ahead of a disappointing Protasiewicz.

Miskowiak took Louis' rider replacement ride in the penultimate race, but Swindon kept in the hunt for the extra point when the Ipswich pair were again found wanting from the tapes.

This meant that another maximum for the home team in the final heat would lead to a run-off for the extra point. And this they duly did from the tapes, with Adams shielding in-form reserve Chrzanowski for four laps to keep the chasing Loram in third place.

As the home fans went wild, Adams took his place on the inside for the run-off and although Loram made a good start the Australian was too powerful and claimed the bonus point.

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Have the Ipswich Witches had a good season? Write to Sports Department, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or email starsport@eveningstar.co.uk

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