Ipswich Witches slipped to a seventh straight defeat at home against Wolverhampton last night, and their play-off hopes are already well and truly in the balance. MIKE BACON takes a look.

Sudbury Mercury: Anders Rowe inside Leon Flint in heat eight.Anders Rowe inside Leon Flint in heat eight. (Image: Steve Waller)


It seems crazy to suggest the Witches play-off hopes are hanging by a thread with half the season still to go.

However, just two victories from their first 10 meetings in a season that will see them only race 20 fixtures, means that is exactly the case.

Somehow, they simply have to re-group because it was without doubt the poorest home performance of the season - and in the context of it's importance, probably the worst performance of the season so far.

Witches fans deserve much better.

Sudbury Mercury: The Witches back to a full team with the return from injury of Jason Crump, are pictured ahead of the meeting.The Witches back to a full team with the return from injury of Jason Crump, are pictured ahead of the meeting. (Image: Steve Waller)


Jason Crump's return to the side didn't end well.

Just three points from three rides, it was a brave effort from the three-time world champion, but he is clearly still far from fit after breaking eight ribs.

He wouldn't have taken the decision lightly to declare himself fit and will be as disappointed as anyone with his points tally.

Guests and rider replacement haven't worked well for Ritchie Hawkins' side in Crump's absence. It was worth taking the chance to have him back, they have so missed him.

And indeed he gated well in all his races. But it was out-track you could see he was in discomfort.

Sudbury Mercury: Paul Starke and Drew Kemp heading for a 5-1 in heat 2.Paul Starke and Drew Kemp heading for a 5-1 in heat 2. (Image: Steve Waller)


Ipswich Witches team manager Ritchie Hawkins had this to say after the meeting.

“We had too many riders not going well enough. We are in a pretty dire position now in the play-off race. It is clear that we have not performed well enough.

“Jason struggled more than he thought he was going to with his fitness, but we had too many other riders not performing. We need to start getting more consistency individually and as a team. We can’t keep carrying two or three people having off nights as it is different guys on different nights, the league is too strong and too solid to do that.

“Overall, we are not in a good position at all. We need to win at King’s Lynn on Monday and start winning meetings but that might not be enough. We owe it to everyone, our loyal fans, sponsors and to ourselves to get back to winning ways on Monday and winning our home meetings as well."

Sudbury Mercury: Anders Rowe checks his goggles ahead of a heat.Anders Rowe checks his goggles ahead of a heat. (Image: Steve Waller)


In front of the Eurosport television cameras there were few bright performances from the Witches.

The skipper Danny King, Anders Rowe and Paul Starke were the only ones who left Foxhall relatively pleased with their performances.

For Craig Cook and Jake Allen who have been so good in recent weeks, it was one to forget. It was just a shame both riders had off-nights in the same meeting.

Sudbury Mercury: Craig Cook and Jason Crump in the pits.Craig Cook and Jason Crump in the pits. (Image: Steve Waller)


Well, there is still half the season to go and many years of being a sports journo has taught me never to write any team off until it is almost mathematically impossible for them to complete their goal.

However, as Witches boss Ritchie Hawkins acknowledges, the Witches have left themselves a mountain to climb. They need wins on the road and no more Foxhall blemishes.

Their performance against Wolves would suggest both those things are highly unlikely right now, something many of their fans already think.... It's over to the Witches riders to prove them wrong.

Sudbury Mercury: Sam Masters inside Jason Crump in the opening heat.Sam Masters inside Jason Crump in the opening heat. (Image: Steve Waller)


It's King's Lynn away next Monday for the Witches as they start the second half of their season. It's no good saying it's a 'must-win' clash. That's so obvious - just as all their meetings from now on in are likely to be classed that way.

The Witches won at Lynn last time they visited the Norfolk Arena. That seems a long time ago now though.