Ipswich Witches column: Witches inflict fourth Premiership defeat of season over rivals King’s Lynn Stars
Ipswich Witches are the kings of East Anglia speedway.
Of that there is little doubt after the Suffolk side inflicted a fourth Premiership defeat of the season over rivals King’s Lynn Stars on Monday night at the Norfolk Arena.
The Witches won 46-44 to pick up three more Premiership points – meaning they have doubled the Stars twice in 2023 – as Ipswich head into next week’s KO Cup two-legged final against Sheffield Tigers with confidence high.
Ipswich travel to Sheffield on Monday night (11th) in the first leg, before staging the second leg at Foxhall three nights later (14th) in what could be the last meeting of the season on the Heath with the Witches’ play-off hopes hanging by a thread.
And that’s because while the Witches were putting Lynn to the sword on Monday in the battle for the final play-off spot, Leicester Lions were producing a stunning performance at Wolverhampton, drawing 45-45 and then winning the Super Heat, to pick up two points to draw level with Ipswich in the table – the Witches having completed their regular league programme. Leicester have one meeting left.
Should Leicester lose that meeting by less than 24 points at Peterborough tomorrow night (they don’t have to win it) having won their home leg 57-33, it is they who will grab the final play-off spot picking up an aggregate bonus point, which is all they need, as Ipswich miss out.
However, team manager Ritchie Hawkins said after the Witches’ win in Norfolk: “I’m proud of the boys and how determined they were.
“They stuck with it throughout the meeting and Lynn tried everything to get the better of us and tried every trick in the book, but we managed to get another win and I’m super proud of how they’ve been over the last six weeks or so.
“That’s seven wins in eight to finish the league season and we look forward to the cup final next week now.
“Our heat leaders did great and to be fair everyone scored and contributed. I thought the effort Keynan (Rew) put in at reserve was superb and if he can put everything like that into every meeting then next season you will really see him push on and it could well be key for the cup final.
“It looks like we might miss out on the play-offs by one or two points, and I think that home defeat to Belle Vue was costly - we thought that at the time.”
The Witches last won the KO Cup back in 1998 but have a chance next week to bring silverware back to Foxhall Stadium for the first time in 25 years.
The KO Cup final sees Sheffield Tigers standing in the way of Ritchie Hawkins’ side. And it should be a close affair with both teams good at home against each other.
The Tigers have been rocked by injury to three-time world champion, Tai Woffinden, who has a damaged hand. His clashes with Ipswich’s Emil Sayfutdinov and Jason Doyle were set to be corkers around both tracks, but the Tigers will have to do without Woffinden, although they have recently signed another former world champion, in Chris Holder.
Ipswich will want to keep it tight in Monday night’s first leg, with a large Foxhall crowd expected for the second leg on Thursday, September 14.
Martin Vaculik was the surprise but popular winner of the British Grand Prix at Cardiff at the weekend.
The Czech racer made a wonderful start in the final to win the meeting for a first-ever time and cement his place near the top of the standings. Australia’s Jack Holder, riding with a plate in his broken wrist was a brave second, with world champion, Bartosz Zmarzlik, third.
For Witches man Jason Doyle, it was a mixed night, with a fall not aiding his cause as he failed to make the semi-final stages.
Hundreds of Ipswich Witches fans attended the meeting at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff and witnessed plenty of good racing on a sound racetrack.
Admission for fans on race night at Foxhall: Adults (17+) £22, concessions (65+) £20, children (16 and under) free, car parking is also free.
Mon., Sep 11, Sheffield Tigers (Away) 7.30pm KO Cup final, first leg.
Thur., Sep 14, SHEFFIELD TIGERS (HOME) 7.30pm KO Cup final, second leg
(Top 4 into play-offs)
Team P Pts
Belle Vue 24 44
Wolves 22 37
Sheffield 23 35
IPSWICH 24 34
Leicester 23 34
Peterborough 21 11
King’s Lynn 23 9