Witches go again tonight in meeting they simply must win
- Credit: Steve Waller -www.stephenwaller.com
Ipswich Witches race Sheffield Tigers tonight at Foxhall Stadium, the original meeting was called off on Thursday. MIKE BACON takes a look at how it is set to pan out.
LAST, LAST CHANCE SALOON
Let's be honest, it is highly unlikely the Witches are going to reach the play-offs.
The only way they will is if tonight's opponents Sheffield implode, there is nothing the Witches can do now, nothing is in their hands.
There was still a reasonable chance had the Witches picked up a point or two at Belle Vue last Monday and Sheffield been thrashed at King's Lynn. But neither came to fruition.
The Yorkshire side are on the same points tally as Ipswich now, but have four meetings in hand. Both teams still have to race each other home and away.
Of course, until it is mathematically impossible for Ipswich not to be able to make the play-offs, it's a dangerous game to say they won't. But you will get very long odds now on the Witches finishing top four.
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Ipswich skipper Danny King has been by far the most consistent Witch this season, banging in a succession of double figure scores.
He grabbed 14 points in the defeat at the Aces last Monday night and admitted the loss of Jason Crump for much of this season has been key.
“It’s so tough without Jason, not just on the track but also in the pits," King said after the defeat in Manchester on Monday.
"But it seems to have been the story of our season so far. Fingers crossed that he is on the mend and we can have a full team back. We really need a full strength team again, we’ve not done very well without Jason, that’s no secret.”
The Witches beat Sheffield by 12 points at Foxhall earlier this season. It remains their biggest win of the year.
That night Jason Crump top-scored with 13 points and it took the Witches to the top of the early-season Premiership table, having already won at King's Lynn and drawn at home to Belle Vue.
But Crump crashed out of his next meeting at Wolverhampton and hasn't featured to any great effect since. His loss, as Danny King said, has been huge, with guest replacements on the whole failing to deliver Crump-esqe scores.
It was a different feel to life at Foxhall Stadium after the Tigers' last visit. So much has changed since for Ipswich.
In a bid to get results, Witches team boss Ritchie Hawkins is always prepared to roll the dice and tinker with the line-up. He is going to do it again for the re-arranged clash tonight.
Jake Allen moves to the No.2 position, where he should do well, it's an easier gig than the difficult No.5 role he had at Belle Vue, while Anders Rowe is given more responsibility at No.4, riding with Danny King.
But the main news is that Jason Crump is back. His presence alone is welcoming for the Witches and hopefully the three-times world champion can end 2021 on a positive note, a string of injury-free meetings and some high scores.
IPSWICH: 1. Jason Crump 8.00 2. Jake Allen 5.15 3. Danny King 7.10 © 4. Anders Rowe 5.38 5. Craig Cook 7.56 6. Drew Kemp (RS) 7. Paul Starke 4.82. Team Manager: Ritchie Hawkins
SHEFFIELD: 1. Jack Holder 8.08 2. Josh Pickering 4.98 3. Troy Batchelor 7.39 4. Kyle Howarth 6.39 © 5. Adam Ellis 7.25 6. Danyon Hume (g) (RS) 7. Stefan Nielsen 3.00. Team Manager: Simon Stead
Wolverhampton 11 30
Belle Vue 13 28
Peterborough 11 27
Sheffield 11 18
Ipswich 15 18
King’s Lynn 11 8