Witches serve up a Foxhall thriller
On the eve of the World Cup when football will start to dominate, Ipswich Witches kept the ball rolling in their pursuit of an Elite League play-off place.
On the eve of the World Cup when football will start to dominate, Ipswich Witches kept the ball rolling in their pursuit of an Elite League play-off place, writes Elvin King.
They managed to beat one of the title favourites, Peterborough, in a last heat decider at a sunny and mild evening at Foxhall Stadium.
With former Witch Hans Andersen in superb form, it needed a dramatic victory by Mark Loram in heat 15 to confirm that the Suffolk side would collect two valuable league points to strengthen their position in the top four of the table.
The Panthers needed a 5-1 in that final race to force a draw, but Loram put paid to their hopes with his best start of the night and he inflicted the only defeat of the meeting on Andersen.
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Another ex-Ipswich rider, Jesper B Jensen, had to retire from the final race when a bracket became loose and his seat came apart.
Two heats earlier the two Danes had combined brilliantly for a maximum heat win to put the result back in the melting pot after Ipswich had taken control following two 5-1s in heats two and three.
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The outside gates were advantageous all evening, which made Loram's efforts in the last race from gate two even more noteworthy.
Peterborough's top five is without doubt the strongest in the league and the Panthers comfortably collected the aggregate bonus point after their big 55-38 victory on a very heavy track in their corresponding home fixture.
Both Peterborough's visits to Foxhall resulted in draws last season and with Andersen to the fore, this looked another possibility right to the end. Andersen received a great reception from Witches' fans after leaving the club last autumn, following two seasons riding for the Witches.It was vital Ipswich scored well in heat two, but when Carl Wilkinson came off his machine on the first corner, things looked black.
But the referee was in a good mood and allowed Wilkinson back into the re-run, which he won from the tapes and his team-mate Daniel King went beyond Richard Hall for second place on the third bend.
Robert Miskowiak, who performed consistently well all night, won heat three from the start with Chris Louis going past Niels-Kristian Iversen on the second bend to make it a bright opening for the home team.
Four drawn heats then followed with Miskowiak doing well to beat Jensen in heat six, when taking a rider replacement ride for Ipswich No. 1 Piotr 'Pepe' Protasiewicz, who was riding in a compulsory meeting in his native Poland.
The facility accrued seven points in total, and in heat six Kim Janssen blew an engine when in third place on the second lap.
The referee had a mad moment in heat eight when the tapes went up before the green light came on.
In the re-run he held the riders for what seemed like an age and with the smell of burnt clutch plates hanging in the air, Ulrich Ostergaard went through the tapes shaking the posts that hold them up before taking an unglamorous tumble.
It was Wilkinson who was excluded, having touched the tapes just before the Peterborough man went hurtling through them.
In the third attempt to run the race, Jansson, having changed bikes, went from last to first with a burst round the second bend.
Ryan Sullivan was a disappointment, but he won heat 10 when he passed Jansson on the back straight with Loram almost on Sullivan's back by the time they crossed the line. In the next race, Loram went from last to second in style, before the Ipswich pair made the best start in heat 12, only for a rejuvenated Sullivan to pass them both before the end of the first circuit.
The two ex-Ipswich Danes then came back to haunt them in heat 13, but Louis calmed the nerves with a win in the penultimate race, with King going beyond Premier League guest James Cockle down the back straight for an important third place.