Pressure on Witches for double header

ALWAYS the biggest domestic day of the speedway season, today sees Ipswich Evening Star Witches and Arena-Essex Lakeside go head to head in a double header.

By Mike Bacon

ALWAYS the biggest domestic day of the speedway season, today sees Ipswich Evening Star Witches and Arena-Essex Lakeside go head to head in a double header.

Starting at Foxhall Heath this afternoon (2.15pm), the two sides, management and fans will then head off down the A12 towards the Dartford Tunnel for part two at Purfleet (tapes up 8pm), on a day where there are five Elite League points up for grabs.

Any other season and the Witches would be hot favourites to at least pick up a bonus point from the two encounters. But this is already proving to be no ordinary season for the Witches and, with No.1 Mark Loram out for the year, a busy Good Friday means there is no-one able to guest for him - leaving huge pressure on the rest of the side.

However Witches team manager Mike Smillie is confident his side will notch their first league win of the 2007 campaign.

“I am confident of winning the home fixture at Foxhall,” Smillie said.

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“Lakeside have riders who sometimes struggle at our track and I would imagine that Kasprzak, Shields and Bager will provide the biggest threat.

“We will miss having no guest rider and, although Scott Nicholls is available, he was worried about taking it on as he has to ride for Coventry in the evening and last year he did a similar thing and nearly missed his own club's meeting. It's sensible he doesn't put himself in that position again.

“At Purfleet, it will hopefully not be a repeat of the Challenge meeting there in March. At least all of our team have now ridden at the track so they may be more at home on the tight bends.”

While the Hammers opening home challenge meeting against the Witches saw them rack up a 64-28 victory, their early season form in the Elite League has been patchy, with the team hampered by an injury to their No.1 Joonas Kylmakorpi, who dislocated a shoulder riding in Poland two weeks ago.

He didn't ride at Wolverhampton on Monday and is still a slight doubt for today, although the smart money is on him being fit.

Arena recorded a comfortable victory over Belle Vue at Purfleet in their Elite League opener but have since lost away heavily at Swindon and narrowly at Wolverhampton without Kylmakorpi.

The Witches beat Arena in their opening night challenge, but that was with Loram - today is set to be much tougher.

The teams

Ipswich: 1 Rider replacement, 2 Kim Jansson, 3 Chris Louis, 4 Marcin Rempala, 5 Robert Miskowiak, 6 Zibi Suchecki, 7 Tobi Kroner.

Arena Essex Lakeside: 1 Joonas Kylmakorpi, 2 Paul Hurry, 3 Krzyszstof Kasprzak, 4 Leigh Lanham, 5 Adam Shields, 6 Christian Hefenbrock, 7 Henning Bager.

Chris Louis and Kim Jansson represent Ipswich in the Elite League Pairs at King's Lynn tomorrow night.

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