‘Massive underdogs, but we will relish it’... Ipswich Witches team boss Ritchie Hawkins as play-offs begin

Witches team manager Ritchie Hawkins. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Witches team manager Ritchie Hawkins. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Poole Pirates v Ipswich Witches, play-off semi-final first leg

WHEN AND WHERE…

The 'Tru Plant' Witches face the Poole Pirates at Poole Stadium on Monday in a Premiership Play-Off semi-final fixture that starts at 7.30pm, live on BT Sport.

THE TEAMS…

POOLE: 1. Brady Kurtz 7.39 2. Nico Covatti 4.80 3. Nicolai Klindt 7.18 4. Josh Grajczonek 6.97 © 5. Jack Holder 7.28 6. Tomas H Jonasson 4.64 7. Ricky Wells 4.39 Team Manager: Neil Middleditch


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IPSWICH: 1. Niels-Kristian Iversen 7.38 2. Cameron Heeps 6.57 3. Chris Harris 6.16 4. Richard Lawson 6.57 5. Danny King 7.06 © 6. James Sarjeant 3.00 7. Jake Allen 5.84. Team Manager: Ritchie Hawkins

REFEREE: C. Gay

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VENUE: Poole Stadium

FINAL PREMIERSHIP TABLE

Team Meetings Points

Poole 24 52

Swindon 24 50

Wolverhampton 24 43

Ipswich 24 42

Belle Vue 24 41

King's Lynn 24 31

Peterborough 24 20

PREMIERSHIP PLAY-OFF FIXTURES

SEMI-FINALS:

Poole v Ipswich (1st Leg - Sep 23), Ipswich v Poole (2nd Leg - Sep 26)

Wolverhampton v Swindon (1st Leg - Sep 30), Swindon v Wolverhampton (2nd Leg - Oct 3)

WHAT'S THE STORY?

The 'Tru Plant' Witches head to Dorset on Monday as they race the away leg of their Premiership Play-Off semi-final against the Poole Pirates. It is a quick return for Ipswich who were at Poole Stadium last Monday to complete their regular league campaign. Before that meeting, many people believed it could be a dress rehearsal for a play-off semi-final fixture.

After the Pirates confirmed top spot in the Premiership on Thursday, those theories were proven to be correct as they chose to face the Witches in the semi-final. The Suffolk side were defeated 51-39 last Monday but team manager Ritchie Hawkins made it clear before the meeting that it was a time for getting some laps in and experimenting with setups in a fixture that had nothing riding on it for his side. It is a different story on Monday as the play-offs begin, and the stakes are raised.

Ipswich have run the Pirates close on their own patch this season, picking up consolation points on two occasions in the league and cup after narrow defeats. Whilst Hawkins and his side will be racing to win on Monday, keeping the score line tight after the first leg will provide a good base to finish off the job at Foxhall on Thursday.

The Witches will be at full strength for this clash with an unchanged riding order. Captain Danny King, Jake Allen, Richard Lawson and Cameron Heeps will be representing their Championship sides on Friday as they take part in the Championship Pairs at Somerset. Niels-Kristian Iversen will be in Grand Prix action on Saturday in Cardiff whilst King and Chris Harris will be hoping to get out on track having been named as track reserves for the event. The Witches head into the play-offs labelled as underdogs by many and they will be determined to get a good result on Monday to set the tie up for a thrilling conclusion at Foxhall on Thursday night in front of their home fans.

FROM THE MANAGER…

Witches team manager Ritchie Hawkins looks ahead to Monday's clash…

"We thought last week there was a good chance we were going to go to Poole, and we need to make the practice we had last week pay on Monday. It does help having a meeting so recently at a track and that should help us. We are taking on the reigning champions who have dominated for years so it is a big ask. We are massive underdogs, but we will relish it.

"We have gone well there three times this season and everyone has had a good meeting there. It holds no fear for us, but it is a big task ahead of us racing against them. We are the underdogs, but I have no doubt in my mind that we are capable of doing it if we get it right next week and that is what we will be trying to do.

"Hopefully everyone comes through the weekend all good. It is an exciting time, and these are the meetings you ride all year to be involved in and we have been working towards giving ourselves this opportunity. Now it is down to everyone to make the most of it.

"I don't set targets, we try to win every race and we will try to win that meeting and we will try to win on Thursday too. You cannot go into a meeting looking to try and lose by less than 10 or whatever."

THE PIRATES…

Poole and the play-offs go hand in hand, and it was no surprise to anyone that they confirmed top spot in the Premiership last Thursday with a win away at King's Lynn. That gave them choice of opponents in the play-off semi-final as they opted to face the Witches. The Pirates have beaten the Witches in all four league meetings home and away in 2019 and will be hoping for a repeat over the next week as they bid to make the final.

The Dorset side name the same line-up and riding order as their win over the Witches last week. Josh Grajczonek captains the side and he was in fine form last Monday, scoring 12+1. Backed up by Jack Holder, Brady Kurtz and Nicolai Klindt, the home side have plenty of heavy hitters. Nico Covatti has enjoyed a good debut season with the club and has moved out of the reserve positions which are now occupied by Ricky Wells and former Grand Prix rider Tomas H Jonasson.

ON THE ROAD…

Poole ride in blue, white and black race jackets and race at Wimborne Road. The track measures at 299.1 metres with the track record belonging to Antonio Lindback who set a time of 56.91 in June of 2006. An adult ticket costs £18, concessions and seniors £15, students £12, youths (aged 11-15) £7, children (aged 5-10) £4 and children under the age of 5 go free. For travel information head here.

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