Mike Bacon’s big Ipswich Witches v Poole Pirates speedway semi-final preview – and his prediction!
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
The Poole Pirates meet the Ipswich Witches in the first leg of their Premiership play-off semi-final on Thursday night. MIKE BACON previews the action...
Poole Pirates are favourites to take this tie over the two legs, the first one at Poole tomorrow night, the second at Ipswich on Saturday - make no bones about it.
As much as I would love to write different, most people in the speedway world would lay money on the Dorset side over Ritchie Hawkins' Ipswich Witches, as both teams battle for a place in the Premiership final against Swindon Robins or Wolverhampton Wolves.
But here's the rub.
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The Witches have been written off many times this season.
Indeed, from day one they were predicted by many to do well to stay off the bottom of the table... Wrong!
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During a blip in August and despite still being in the play-offs, many then suggested the Witches 'bubble had burst', as they lost home meetings to both Swindon and Poole - and were thrashed away at Swindon... Wrong!
The bubble has never burst. Ipswich are in the play-offs - and on merit.
They have been a refreshing addition to the sport's top league in this country.
No star names - not until the recent addition of Grand Prix star Niels Kristian-Iversen - which was required as the team just got over the line into the play-offs.
This has been a Witches team big in team spirit, which has dug deep on numerous occasions.
It has had to, manager Hawkins taking much credit for helping them do so.
But the Witches face a huge task.
Poole are the play-off Grand Masters.
They have won the Premiership five times in the last eight years. They have a relentless streak at this time of the season, with team boss Neil Middleditch often getting the very best from his team at this, the most crucial of times in the season.
Poole will be hoping to put the tie to bed tomorrow night - perhaps a 16-20 point win - which would be very hard for the Witches to come back from at Foxhall on Saturday.
However, anything ten points or below and the Witches are right in it.
It's a fascinating clash between two clubs who have dominated the sport in current and past decades.
The play-offs are a reset button. Everything starts afresh - And that just might play into the Witches hands.
Both legs are live on BT Sport.
VIEWS FROM THE MANAGEMENT
POOLE'S DANNY FORD: "Momentum in sport is huge and if you look at the recent results for both sides, you'd say that falls in our favour.
"We've hit a good patch of form at the right time, but we won't be taking anything for granted.
"Yes, we beat Ipswich heavily on our track just the other week, but I know they will have used that meeting to experiment with track set-ups as nothing was riding on it for them."
IPSWICH'S CHRIS LOUIS: "You can't put numbers on it. At the end of the day we don't want to come away on Thursday night 16 points down. We need to keep it close. In saying that, Poole are capable of coming to Ipswich and winning, just as we are at their place.
"With the second leg on Saturday night now at Foxhall, it might just play into our hands. A big crowd and atmosphere could see us through."
BACON'S KEY MEN
Poole: NICO COVATTI: For me Covatti has a huge role to play for the Pirates. Riding at No.2 is never easy. But Covatti doesn't just know his way around Poole, but also Ipswich, where has spent many recent seasons. Big points at both could do it for Poole.
Ipswich: JAKE ALLEN: The Witches reserve could be a very busy man over these two meetings. He is in decent form, has an average almost a point more than Covatti, who is in the main body of the Poole team. Double figure scores in both ties could tip it Ipswich's way.
(most recent first)
v King's Lynn (A) W 51-39; Ipswich (H) W 51-39; King's Lynn (H) W 58-32; Wolves (H) L 39-49; Ipswich (A) W 47-43.
(most recent first)
v Poole (A) L 39-51; Swindon (H) W 48-42; Poole (H) L 43-47; Swindon (A) L 24-66; Peterborough (H) W 54-36
HEAD TO HEAD
This season Poole and Ipswich have met six times.
Ipswich have won one, Poole have won five.
League Champions: 1975, 1976, 1984, 1998
KO Cup: 1970, 1971 (both D2), 1976, 1978, 1981, 1984, 1998
Craven Shield: 1998
Inter-League Cup: 1977
Four Team Trophy: 1991, 2011
Premier League Pairs: 2015
League Champions: 1969, 1994, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2018
KO Cup Winners: 2003, 2004, 2010, 2011, 2012
League Cup Winners: 2003
Craven Shield Winners: 2001, 2002, 2006
National League Champions: 1989, 1990
National League Div 2 Champions: 1952, 1955
National League Div 3 Champions: 1951
Provincial League Champions: 1961, 1962
National League KO Cup Winners: 1990
Elite Shield winners: 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016
Elite League Pairs Champions: 2007, 2009, 2011
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
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 3.26 7. Jake Allen 5.84. Team Manager: Ritchie Hawkins
First leg: Poole 49 Ipswich 41
Second leg: Ipswich 50 Poole 40.
Witches win 91-89 on aggregate!