Monday, 20 July 2015

Ipswich Witches 45 v 45 Edinburgh Monarchs

Thursday 16th July 2015
Premier League Speedway
Foxhall Stadium, Ipswich
Admission: £16.00
Programme: £2.50
Attendance: 1,000 (estimate)
Match Rating: 4

Having been converted to speedway this season, I planned a short break in Suffolk around being able to take in this meeting. It would also be a nice evening of reminiscence for me as, like with Arlington, I spent many a day here with my father as he raced cars around this circuit.

Foxhall Stadium is located a couple of miles to the east of Ipswich town centre, and has seen considerable development since my last visit in the early nineties. As one enters through the turnstiles, there are various huts and stands selling programmes and merchandise.a nice bowl, amphitheatre feel to the place is created with steep terracing around almost all of the circuit, although now two very large, open and temporary looking all seater stands have been erected along the back straight, offering excellent views of the racing. Along the top of the bend between the entrance turnstiles and the back straight is a diner and bar housed in the one building, then a series of mostly continuous brick buildings with refreshment and merchandise outlets, not all of which were open this evening, and on top of these are portakabins used for hospitality. A covered area for wheelchair users is located to the top of the terrace behind this curve. There remains a small, very old fashioned grandstand by the start/finish line, but the bar that used to be located in a small, rather dingy building behind the grandstand is no longer used. Behind the remaining curve is just open terracing, but with a basic scoreboard located above it. A 24 page colour programme was produced, with some interesting articles and all the relevant stats.

This evening's meeting would be a step up from what I have been used to with the Eastbourne Eagles this season, with the Ipswich Witches racing in the Premier League, the second tier of speedway in the UK. They came into this meeting in sixth place, the final place that would qualify for the end of season play-offs. This evening would represent a tough challenge to cement that place, with this evening's visitors, the Edinburgh Monarchs, being the reigning champions and leading the table again this season, and they beat the Witches 53-37 last month on home shale.

At the end of a sunny, fairly warm day, the meeting had an explosive start when, after the Witches' captain Danny King was penalised for a false start with a 15 metre penalty at the restart. He turned in a fabulous performance to win the heat despite this disadvantage, although the heat was tied 3-3. The Witches then scored a 5-1 in the next heat to open up a lead which they held on to right through to the ninth lead, never managing to open up more than a four point lead though as six of the opening eight heats were tied, although a highlight came in the sixth heat when the Monarchs' Craig Cook broke the track record - which he set himself on his visit last season.

Things started to turn away from the Witches in heat nine, when Gino Manzares crashed and smashed through a wooden fence and landed on the tarmac around the outside. It soon became apparent he was hurt when medics raced to the scene and an ambulance took him away, although happily it later transpired he had not broken anything and just had severe bruising. The Monarchs went on to level the scores at the restart, and although the Witches won heat ten 5-1, the Monarchs then immediately responded with a maximum of their own, followed by another to open up a four point lead going into the heat 13. Ipswich steaded the ship by tying that heat, then set up a last heat decider by scoring a maximum. Although Edinburgh's Cook won the final heat, Ipswich riders came second and third to tie the heat and the meeting overall, earning one point for the home team and two for the away.

This was a really enjoyable meeting which could have gone either way, and it was a real privilege to witness Danny King's amazing first heat victory and Craig Cook smashing the track record. Although Ipswich will perhaps be disappointed not to have killed the meeting off when they were in front throughout the first half of the meeting, in the end they will be happy with a point after falling four points behind with three heats left.

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