Witches head north hoping to down the Monarchs

Nico Covatti, in good form again for the Witches last night

Nico Covatti, in good form again for the Witches last night - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Ipswich Witches head to Scotland on Friday hoping to take points off Edinburgh Monarchs – the current Premier League champions.

It will not be an easy task against a team that have already qualified for the League Cup semi-finals – where they will meet the Witches – and the Knock-Out Cup quarter-finals after a two-legged victory over Sheffield.

Coupled with that, the Monarchs have won their five opening league fixtures, including two on the road – at Scunthorpe and Newcastle.

“We know Edinburgh are a good side,” Witches skipper Ritchie Hawkins said.

“But they are beatable and we have riders who go well there. The only disappointing thing is that Cameron Heeps is still injured, he is one rider who really goes well at Edinburgh.”

Heeps indeed is still missing from a Witches side who will continue to use rider replacement at No.4 for the Aussie, who has a broken wrist.

“I’m quite happy to have rider replacement at No.4,” Witches team boss Phil Hilton said, answering to criticism from some fans that the R/R facility would be better used at two.

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“Having that facility at four means I have been able to use Nico Covatti in heat 14 and you just need to take a look at our heat 14 results in recent weeks to see what a difference that has made to our performances.”

While Edinburgh boast two of the league’s top stars in Sam Masters and Craig Cook, the Witches themselves having hit some decent form.

Unbeaten in four meetings, including two away victories at Plymouth and Redcar, the Witches have Danny King in especially impressive form, while Gino Manzares has enjoyed two good meetings since his return from injury.

German, Erik Riss, son of former Witch Gerd Riss, who rode for the club in the late ‘70s, drops to reserve with the new averages out.

Bizarrely, Riss is just back from a collarbone injury sustained after a ‘high-five’ with team-mate Justin Sedgmen at the end of a race at Workington recently went wrong and Riss fell, breaking his collarbone!

Ipswich’s Stefan Nielsen meanwhile is looking forward to a world under-21 final series after his qualification in Italy at the weekend.

Nielsen won a run-off with local favourite Paco Castagna for the final qualifying place and now takes part in the three-meeting series which starts next month in Lonigo, Italy, then heads to Lublin, Poland, with the final round at Pardubice, in the Czech Republic, in September.

The Witches are back in home action at Foxhall next Thursday, when Newcastle are the visitors.

EDINBURGH MONARCHS: Sam Masters, Rob Branford, Kevin Wolbert, Justin Sedgmen, Craig Cook (capt.), Erik Riss, Max Clegg.

IPSWICH WITCHES: Danny King, Gino Manzares, Nico Covatti, rider replacement for Cameron Heeps, Rohan Tungate, Stefan Nielsen, Ritchie Hawkins (capt.).

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