Witches can make play-offs with Devils victory

Ipswich ‘Sackers’ Witches will not be re-declaring their line-up after the news that No.1 Ben Barker is out for the season with a crushed vertabrae.

Ipswich ‘Sackers’ Witches will not be re-declaring their line-up after the news that No.1 Ben Barker is out for the season with a crushed vertabrae.

A ruling, newly-introduced this season, states that no clubs can re-declare line-ups after August 28 – the very day Barker got injured riding for Birmingham in an Elite League clash with Coventry.

It will be guest riders all the way now for the Witches as their season boils up – a cup final and play-offs beckoning – with Barker meantime moved to Sandwell Hospital in the west Midlands for an operation today.

Plymouth are the visitors tonight at Foxhall Stadium in a Premier League clash that – should the Witches win – means they are in the play-offs.

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Much for Witches director of speedway Chris Louis to ponder.

“It’s a big blow to lose Ben of course it is,” he said.

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“He has done his bit and more to get us to the position we are in. He’s a big character for us.

“But he will be the first to admit he hasn’t done it on his own, every rider has played their part and it is important they continue to do so.

“We will push on without him – and for him. Our season is very much alive and we will keep it that way.”

With a replacement rider for Barker not on the agenda, Louis is scouring round for guests for the finals months of the season.

It’s no easy task, as he admits.

“We did ask the BSPA whether we could re-declare for Ben because his accident was actually on the cut-off date. But we were told no.

“There is nothing more to consider now than guest riders.

“My only concern is having guests whose clubs are involved in the play-offs. Will their clubs want them to race for us if we are in the play-offs with them?

“But there are a few clubs who are not in the play-offs and I could look at riders from them.

“One thing I would like to do is get a guest rider in who becomes part of the team, feels part of the team and helps us with our run-in. Get almost a permanent guest if you like, who gets used to Foxhall.”

Louis’ options are more limited if he goes down that route. But there are some good riders in the lower half of the Premier League whose seasons will be winding down shortly.

Scunthorpe’s Josh Auty, Berwick’s Kozza Smith and one of tonight’s opponents Mikkel Bech – the Devils No.1 – all spring to mind. Plymouth arrive at Foxhall tonight with a much-changed line-up as they seek to finish the season in positive fashion.

Led by the flying Bech, they also include high-rated Rasmus Jensen, although Hynek Stichaeur has returned home to the Czech Republic after a loss of confidence in his UK racing.

Somerset’s Josh Grajzconek guests for the Witches on a Saturday night when again children under-15 go free, so long as accompanied by a paying adult.

Ipswich: 1 Josh Grajzconek, 2 Cameron Heeps, 3 Rohan Tungate, 4 Leigh Lanham, 5 Morten Risager, 6 Adam Ellis, 7 Ritchie Hawkins.

Plymouth: 1 Mikkel Bech, 2. R/R, 3 Rasmus Jensen, 4 Michael Palm Toft, 5. Mark Lemon, 6 Jake Anderson, 7 Todd Kurtz.

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