Saturday night’s alright for the Witches as they make it just one defeat in 12. But Tigers battle hard in Foxhall encounter
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Witches 54 Sheffield Tigers 36
Saturday night’s clearly alright with Ipswich Witches and their fans if this victory over Sheffield Tigers is anything to go by.
The Tigers put up a brave show, but were sent packing back to Yorkshire – the latest side to suffer defeat at the hands of the cock-a-hoop Witches.
Having beaten the Tigers on their own track 48 hours earlier, Brian Messenger’s charges were in no mood to let them off the hook back at ‘Fortress Foxhall’.
It’s now 10 wins, one draw and one defeat in the Witches last 12 Premier League fixtures and this team is gathering momentum at a frightening pace.
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Nothing has been won yet of course but with a play-off place now secure and a KO Cup semi-final to come, the season is boiling up nicely.
Only skipper Ritchie Hawkins had a quiet night on Saturday for the Witches against a Sheffield team who battled hard throughout and made this a thoroughly entertaining contest.
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“To be fair Sheffield made it harder for us tonight than they did at their place on Thursday,” Witches team boss Brian Messenger said, after the meeting.
“We got off to a bad start and Ritchie Hawkins, by his standards had a poor night – it just shows his value to the team and how much we need him. The main thing is that we have the momentum going and we need to keep doing so because the play-offs are only a couple of weeks away and are going to be very tough.
“I was very pleased for young Marc Owen who covered for Adam Ellis.
“I just said to Marc, stay on your bike and get back in the pits after each race. He did that and more.”
Hawkins apart, all the regular Witches were on song, with American Gino Manzares and teenager Cameron Heeps thrilling the crowd with some of their racing.
Morten Risager was impressive once more, while Rohan Tungate, who takes over the No.1 race jacket from Richie Worrall on Thursday, when the Witches entertain Peterborough, looked quick.
The acid tests are still ahead however, and the Witches were in a similar boat at this stage of the season last year until injuries sadly ruined their campaign.
With a bigger-than-usual crowd in attendance on Saturday, there is little doubt this exciting young team is starting to capture the imagination of the Suffolk fans.
And yet when former Witch Taylor Poole and GB World Cup star Simon Stead shot to the front in heat one for the Tigers, with Worrall and Hawkins making a right mess of things, it wasn’t in the script.
Poole was in good form all night and he won the next before Risager and Manzares calmed any nerves in the home camp to level things up.
Manzares shot from gate three in heat five to keep Stead behind him as he and Risager maxed once more, while Hawkins’ troubled night started to take shape when he unceremoniously knocked off Nico Covatti on the last lap of heat six.
Heeps passed Poole in exciting fashion in heat eight, the crowd going wild, and while Covatti jumped out to win heat nine, three heats later the meeting was all over for the Tigers.
Stead showed his class with a couple of breathtaking passes on Worrall in heats 13 and 15.
The entertainment was excellent, the result for home fans just perfect.
It’s all building-up to quite a finale at Foxhall Heath.
1 Stead, Poole, Worrall, Hawkins 57.3 1-5
2 Poole, Heeps, Owen, Bates 57.8 4-8
3 Manzares, Risager, Wilson, Lanham (ret) 57.6 9-9
4 Tungate, Bates, Owen, Covatti 57.7 13-11
5 Manzares, Risager, Stead, Wilson (e/f) 57.6 18-12
6 Worrall, Poole, Covatti, Hawkins (ex) no time 21-15
7 Tungate, Lanham, Wilson, Owen 58.5 24-18
8 Heeps, Poole, Bates, Hawkins 58.8 27-21
9 Covatti, Manzares, Risager, Poole (e/f) 58.4 30-24
10 Worrall, Wilson, Hawkins, Lanham 58.6 34-26
11 Tungate, Stead, Heeps, Bates 58.0 38-28
12 Heeps, Risager, Poole, Lanham 59.0 43-29
13 Stead, Worrall, Tungate, Covatti 58.8 46-32
14 Manzares, Heeps, Wilson, Bates (f/x) 59.7 51-33
15 Stead, Worrall, Manzares, Covatti 59.4 54-36
Ipswich 3pts. Sheffield 0pts.
Ipswich: R Worrall 11, R Hawkins 1, M Risager 7+4, G Manzares 12, R Tungate 10+1, C Heeps 11+1, M Owen 2+1
Sheffield: S Stead 12, R/R, L Lanham 2, B Wilson 5+1, N Covatti 4, T Poole 10, J Bates 3+1
Mike’s man of the match
Difficult to believe the popular American is new to British speedway this season. A Foxhall favourite already and another mature and quality performance on Saturday