Witches pay the penalty late on
IPSWICH Witches went down by 10 points at Smallmead Stadium last night against Elite League new-boys Reading.The Berkshire side finished strongly with two 5-1 maximums in heats 13 and 15, and from a meeting where Ipswich were always in contention, they went as far behind as they had done all night at the final hurdle.
By Mike Bacon
IPSWICH Witches went down by 10 points at Smallmead Stadium last night against Elite League new-boys Reading.
The Berkshire side finished strongly with two 5-1 maximums in heats 13 and 15, and from a meeting where Ipswich were always in contention, they went as far behind as they had done all night at the final hurdle.
Without flu victim Chris Louis, Piotr Protasiewicz and Mark Loram in particular stepped up to the plate in no uncertain terms, thrilling the crowd with some wonderful racing.
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And when Robert Miskowiak and Kim Jansson chipped in with odd points, the Witches kept themselves in the meeting throughout.
However, they could not count on the unbelievable form of Reading reserve Janusz Kolodziej, who rattled up a paid 18 points from the No. 7 berth and was a major player in his side's victory.
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Loram took over the captaincy armband from Chris Louis, who missed the meeting because of flu.
Robert Miskowiak took the rider replacement ride in heat one, but it was the Bulldogs captain, Greg Hancock, who won comfortably.
Jan Jaros held off the attentions of Sam Simota at the back in a drawn reserves race and heat three was an absolute cracker.
Miskowiak flew from the outside to lead Matej Zagar and Piotr Protasiewicz. While Miskowiak led, Zagar and Protasiewicz had a battle royal for four pulsating laps, with Protasiewicz on the outside and Zagar on the inside.
Protasiewicz got past the Slovenian only for Zagar to get him back on the final lap.
The scores were all level with the outside gate producing some fast starts and Loram sped from that outside gate to comfortably win the next.
Birthday boy Zagar put his side back into the lead in heat five and Smith passed Jaros down the back straight on lap two in the next as Reading increased their lead to four points.
But Ipswich were giving as good as they were getting and Protasiewicz in particular was looking very fast.
He roared past Charlie Gjeddie down the back straight in heat seven, but in heat eight the Witches were dealt a big blow with Jansson and Daniel King both missing the start as Reading opened up a six-point lead with the first 5-1 maximum of the night.
Loram produced one of his typical never-say-die rides in heat nine, chasing and then passing Travis McGowan on the line by half-a-wheel in a thrilling finish, although with Zagar passing Jaros on lap two, Ipswich still remained six points behind at 30-24.Protasiewicz was lighting up Smallmead Stadium with some terrific racing and he went past the unbeaten Hancock through the eye of a needle on the outside down the back straight.
It was another heat advantage to the Witches and Ipswich had pulled the score back to trail by just 32-28.
Loram won the next and Jansson, who was passed by Gjeddie on the third lap, kept his throttle open round the final two bends, to once again win the race to the line for third place, and another heat win to the Witches which brought them to within two points of the home side at 34-32.
It was proving a cracking little meeting and Ipswich were continuing to put the home side under the cosh as the match went into the last four heats.
There were plenty of elbows flying into the first turn of heat 12 and referee Rod Smith called all four back in a race won comfortably by Protasiewicz in the re-run.
The Witches were still just two points behind, but reserve Kolodziej was about to dampen the Witches' evening as he gated to the front from the favoured outside gate in heat 13 as Hancock rounded Jansson on the fourth turn and the Witches slipped to six points behind.
They needed a heat advantage in the next and although King produced his best ride of the night, again from the outside, with Miskowiak at the back, the meeting was the Bulldogs'.
With the bonus point in mind in the forthcoming meeting at Foxhall on Thursday, Ipswich wanted to keep it close, but Reading won the toss for gate position again from the outside.
This time it was Hancock who teamed-up with Kolodziej, who was having his fourth ride on the trot, and it was Reading, with those two 5-1 maximums in heats 13 and 15 that ran out 10-point victors.
Ipswich, hopefully with a fitter Chris Louis back in the side, will still very much fancy their chances of all three points on Thursday night.