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Mike Bacon’s Ipswich Witches 2018 review... PLUS Chris Louis on injuries, bikes, frustrations, Drew Kemp and more....

Michael Hartel (blue helmet) and team-mate Danny King crash in the first heat of the Ipswich v Lakeside meeting early in the season. It was a crash that put King out for the season after an a failed comeback bid. Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.com

Michael Hartel (blue helmet) and team-mate Danny King crash in the first heat of the Ipswich v Lakeside meeting early in the season. It was a crash that put King out for the season after an a failed comeback bid. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

© Copyright Stephen Waller

It wasn’t a great season at Foxhall Heath for Ipswich Witches. Just 13 home meetings, they failed to win a cup tie or make the play-offs. MIKE BACON takes a look at what went wrong.

Witches team manager Ritchie Hawkins (left)  and promoter Chris Louis, (centre), with  Cameron Heeps. It was a tough year for the Witches management. Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comWitches team manager Ritchie Hawkins (left) and promoter Chris Louis, (centre), with Cameron Heeps. It was a tough year for the Witches management. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

It didn’t appear possible Ipswich Witches’ 2018 season could be as injury-hit as 2017... WRONG!

In a sport fraught with danger, the Foxhall Heath side were – for a second year on the bounce – victims of long-term injury that scuppered a campaign that promised so much.

When Ipswich No.1 Danny King crashed with team-mate Michael Hartel in heat one of the Witches home clash with Lakeside in May, little did the Foxhall faithful realise the season-long consequences.

Damage to nerves in King’s left arm was the outcome. A return to the track a few weeks later lasted just a couple of meetings and the Witches No.1 was out for the season – it was the middle of June.

Injuries to Nico Covatti early on and then later another season-long injury for Hartel saw the Witches chopping and changing throughout the year.

And because of that momentum was never gained.

The Championship season was shortened in 2018, with just one home and one away league clash, away from the usual two home and two away.

Go out of the early season League Cup and/or the KOC first round and it’s a pretty bare fixture list ahead – the Witches were out of both by the first week in May.

Rory Schlein and injured skipper Danny King.    Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comRory Schlein and injured skipper Danny King. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Quite honestly, their season never got going.

After coming bottom of their three-team League Cup group (to Lakeside and Peterborough), the Witches, hindered by King’s crash in the first leg, were soon out of the KO Cup too – again to Lakeside.

An encouraging start to their Championship campaign with two early home wins and a draw at Newcastle kept a good feeling going in the Foxhall camp, but a damaging 10-pt defeat at Berwick was a big disappointment, especially as Witches Aussie star Rory Schlein netted an 18-pt maximum.

Indeed Schlein was doing a fine job without his heat leader partner King and the Witches guests were in the main scoring freely – Scott Nicholls very much coming to the fore as a guest as the season wore on.

Witches new signing Drew Kemp. An Ipswich asset and shining star.    PICTURE STEVE WALLER    www.stephenwaller.comWitches new signing Drew Kemp. An Ipswich asset and shining star. PICTURE STEVE WALLER www.stephenwaller.com

However, when Workington beat the Witches in July at Foxhall the writing was on the wall and despite picking up big away wins at lowly Redcar and later Scunthorpe, too many points had already been dropped – Peterborough as good as sealing the Witches play-off fate when they won at Foxhall in August.

Three successive defeats, two at home, saw the Witches campaign end on the dampest of squibs.

Indeed of the team that ended the season with defeat to Berwick at Foxhall, only two began it in the Witch on opening night... Cameron Heeps and Covatti.

It wasn’t all bad news though.

Argentinian duo Nico Covatti and Coty Garcia find something to laugh about in a season that wasn't much of a laughing matter for the Foxhall faithful.  Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comArgentinian duo Nico Covatti and Coty Garcia find something to laugh about in a season that wasn't much of a laughing matter for the Foxhall faithful. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

The season did end on a positive note for many Foxhall fans.

That was because of the debut of 16-year-old Drew Kemp, the Great Blakenham-based youngster, who made a huge impression during the final month of the campaign.

It is set to be a long winter for Witches fans, but Kemp’s name will surely be the first name on the 2019 Witches team sheet.

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