Robins deny Witches
A LAST heat 5-1 maximum to the Swindon Robins broke the hearts of Ipswich Witches fans at Foxhall Stadium on Saturday night.In a thrilling night of speedway, the league leaders from Wiltshire were pushed all the way by a determined effort from the Witches that almost saw them grab what would have been two deserved Elite League points.
By Mike Bacon
A LAST heat 5-1 maximum to the Swindon Robins broke the hearts of Ipswich Witches fans at Foxhall Stadium on Saturday night.
In a thrilling night of speedway, the league leaders from Wiltshire were pushed all the way by a determined effort from the Witches that almost saw them grab what would have been two deserved Elite League points.
In the end it wasn't to be, Grand Prix star Leigh Adams and Lee Richardson, held off all the efforts of Witches skipper Chris Louis in a thrilling final race, to leave the large Foxhall crowd disappointed with the result, but not with the drama that had unfolded before them.
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Having thrashed Reading at the Berkshire track on Friday night, Swindon were expected to breeze into Foxhall and claim all the points 24 hours later without too much trouble.
But the Witches, without Jesper B Jensen and Zibi Suchecki, both injured, put up a terrific fight to take this exciting Sky Sports Elite League clash down to the wire.
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Much of the reasoning for that was due to the performances of Tobi Kroner and Marcin Rempala, both youngsters excelling against the league's top side. And aided by the guile of skipper Louis, this was an intriguing contest.
However, Grand Prix star Adams showed exactly why he is currently sitting in second place in the GP standings with as good a piece of team-riding as you will see anywhere in the world in the last heat, guiding Richardson home, with Louis all over the Swindon pair like a rash.
It was a shame the Witches had nothing to show for their efforts because they deserved something from a meeting that ebbed and flowed one way and then another, the lead changing hands no less than five times.
But lacking a true No. 1, and with Robert Miskowiak not at the races, the Witches were always going to struggle against Adams, although they got among the rest of the Robins in no uncertain terms and, despite producing only five race winners, took it to the wire with some hard riding and thrilling passing.
None more so than Rempala, who many have doubted this season.
On Saturday, the young Pole, not for the first time in a difficult first season in England, rose to the occasion, gating to victory in heat two and passing Richardson in heat 12 to help put his side ahead with just three heats to go.
He almost clinched at least a point for the Witches in the penultimate heat, diving under Charlie Gjedde on the final bend, only for the Swindon man to cut back for victory on the line as the temperature rose significantly in the latter stages.
Before all that, the meeting had started with Swindon racing to a 5-1 in the first race, only for the Witches to hit back with two 5-1 maximums of their own in heats two and three.
A ferocious first lap in heat seven saw Rempalak in second place, before his engine exploded, handing a maximum to the visitors, who took the lead once more.
Kim Jansson produced a stunning pass on Tomasz Chrzanowski in heat eight and then Louis and the impressive Tobi Kroner brought the scores level in heat nine.
Rempala was involved in the action again in heat 11, fighting hard to pass Chrzanowski on the run-in to the line, the Swindon rider moving across to block him, but in doing so falling and being rightly excluded by referee Dan Holt, as the Swindon man and machine went over the finish line in a tangle.
That kept Ipswich in it and when Rempala, brilliantly passing Richardson, joined Louis in heat 12 for a 5-1 maximum, the home side were ahead again.
After two drawn heats, including Gjedde's win over Rempala in heat 14, the scene was set for a dramatic finale.
Swindon promoter Terry Russell and captain Adams called for the referee to check the gate spacing on the starting areas before the start of the final heat to further heighten the tension.
But referee Holt swiftly dismissed their grizzling, much to the delight of the home crowd.
However it was the Robins who had the last laugh, Adams and Richardson punching the air with delight having kept Louis at bay in the final thrilling race.
The league-leaders had got out of jail and are now on their way to a top-two finish in the play-offs. But the Witches could hold their heads high.
Great entertainment. This was cracking speedway.
Were you at Foxhall on Saturday night? Were the Witches were unlucky? What do you think of the Witches side? E-mail us, starsport@eveningstar.