Witches gain narrow first-leg advantage

IPSWICH and Coventry both took satisfaction from last night's first leg of their Craven Shield round with Wolverhampton.The will be happy to have won the meeting at a damp Foxhall Stadium, and to have kept alive their hopes of making it through to the final.

By Elvin King

IPSWICH and Coventry both took satisfaction from last night's first leg of their Craven Shield round with Wolverhampton.

The will be happy to have won the meeting at a damp Foxhall Stadium, and to have kept alive their hopes of making it through to the final.

The Bees will fancy their chances of building up a considerable lead in their home leg tonight and then go on to top the group after the final leg at Monmore Green on October 8.

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A disappointing Wolves, who had two riders who failed to score a single point and top men Peter Karlsson and Fredrik Lindgren off form, are left with much work to do if they are to still be in the hunt by the time they stage their home leg.

Scott Nicholls and Rory Schlein were unbeaten for Coventry while Ipswich had a solid look about them and were particularly well served by Tobi Kroner, Robert Miskowiak and Chris Louis.

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The Witches shot off to a good start and were in a 5-1 position in heat one until Karlsson overtook Kevin Doolan round the third and fourth bends. It was a notable victory for Kim Jansson over Foxhall expert Karlsson.

Kroner made a superb run to the first bend from the outside gate to take the lead in heat three. He held this until the fourth bend of the third circuit when Nicholls burst through on the inside to go on and take the chequered flag.

Miskowiak kept his form going from last Thursday when he scorched to an 18-point maximum against Eastbourne when he won race four without too much difficulty. He was followed home by Marcin Rempala, although Wolverhampton's David Howe was close to catching the Pole on the line.

Nicholls won heat six to keep Coventry in command with Ipswich filling the minor places, before - with rain falling steadily - Miskowiak was again at his best to make the fastest break and dash away to collect three points.

The fun and games were going on behind with Rempala relegated to the back after one lap, but then hitting back in style with an outside pass that saw him whiz beyond both Lindgren and Rye House rider Tommy Allen, who was guesting for Wolves for Kenneth Hansen.

Steve Johnston did his warm-up circuit complete with umbrella before race nine as the rain continued to do its best to spoil proceedings. When the tapes went up the Australian did not appear to fancy the conditions and trailed in at the back as Louis made a determined first corner to win a race in which he was followed home by team-mate Kroner.

It was a significant 5-1 over Coventry to put the Witches in the driving seat.

The rain had thankfully eased considerably by the start of race 10 with Ipswich (24) ahead of Coventry by three points at the half-way stage and Wolves way behind on nine points.

Ipswich were in for a shock when the Wolves pair of Billy Hamill and David Howe made the best starts to chalk up a 5-1, and Ipswich's cause was not helped when Nicholls and Billy Janniro swept to a maximum heat success over Wolves in heat 11.

After a brief respite another shower arrived in time to greet the riders for race 12 - and there was more misery for the Witches when the previously unbeaten Miskowiak and Rempala were out-gated by Rory Schlein and Martin Smolinski.

The 5-1 for likely Elite League champions Coventry put them back in charge and left Ipswich needing a strong finish in the final third of the meeting.

And they hit back well enough in heat 13 when the budding partnership of Louis and Kroner combined for a 5-1 over the disappointing Wolves pair of Lindgren and Allen.

It was still drizzling slightly for heat 14 when Howe and Hamill collected their second consecutive 5-1 to dent Coventry's hopes of a win on the night.

Ipswich were out again in the next race and managed to keep tabs on Coventry with a drawn heat after Jansson and Doolan managed to hold off Coventry's Smolinski in a heat won by maximum-man Schlein.

Louis and Kroner faced the Wolves pairing of Karlsson and Lawson in the following race, and the 5-1 was just what the doctor ordered with Karlsson having a rare off night at Foxhall.

Kroner dropped just one point all evening - to Nicholls in heat three - and his partnership with Louis contributed three 5-1s in their last three outings.

The rain had stopped by the time Nicholls and Janniro won their battle with Wolves pair Lindgren and Allen in the penultimate heat, putting the Bees one point ahead of Ipswich going into the final race.

Miskowiak was in no mood to be second best and he took the chequered flag with Rempala finding a way beyond Johnston for a third place that confirmed the narrowest of Ipswich victories on the night.

Ipswich: K Doolan 3+2, K Jansson 8, C Louis 9, T Kroner 8+3, R Miskowiak 10, M Rempala 5+2.

Coventry: S Nicholls 12, B Janniro 5+2, T Topinka 4, S Johnston 4, R Schlein 11+1, M Smolinski 6+1.

Wolves: P Karlsson 5, W Lawson 0, F Lindgren 5, T Allen 0, B Hamill 5+1, D Howe 8+1.

IPSWICH take an unchanged side to Coventry tonight with Belle Vue's Kevin Doolan continuing to guest for Jesper B Jensen.

Coventry expect to have Grand Prix star Chris Harris back after he missed last night's first leg because of a re-arranged Swedish League play-off.

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