Mike Bacon: Where has it all gone wrong for the Witches?

Jake Allen in trouble in heat eight.

Jake Allen in trouble in heat eight against Sheffield, as the Witches lost. - Credit: Steve Waller -www.stephenwaller.com

Ipswich Witches went down to an eight-point defeat at home to Sheffield Tigers last night. And with that their play-off hopes vanished as well. MIKE BACON takes a look at where it has all gone wrong in 2021.

Jason Crump looks uncomfortable as he walks away from a heavy crash in heat 13.

Jason Crump looks uncomfortable as he walks away from his heavy crash in heat 13. - Credit: Steve Waller-www.stephenwaller.c

THE CRUMP FACTOR

The 2020 season was built around the signing of Jason Crump.

And when that season never went ahead because of Covid, we waited with bated breath as to whether the three-time world champion would commit again this year. At 45 years old it was a big decision to make.

But commit he did and it was all going so well. A double figure top-score against Sheffield back in May, and all seemed rosy with the Witches world... until Crump's big crash at Wolverhampton one meeting later.

The Witches have never recovered.

Guests and rider replacement were on the whole next to hopeless as meetings came and went, defeats came and went and Ipswich's play-off hopes hung by a hand, then a rope, then a piece of string, and finally a thin piece of cotton - which has now snapped.

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The season was all about Jason Crump - but sadly it will be remembered for not having him in the side, rather than what he did on the track. Such a shame.

Heat three action with Danny King the Witch between Sheffield pair Kyle Howarth and Troy Batchelor.

Heat three action with Danny King the Witch between Sheffield pair Kyle Howarth and Troy Batchelor. - Credit: Steve Waller -www.stephenwaller.com

POWDER PUFF FOXHALL

Foxhall Heath was a happy hunting ground for visiting teams in 2021.

A place many riders feared going to back in the day, Foxhall has become, for many visiting riders, a chance to pick up good points money.

It shouldn't be that way.

Ipswich still have a decent track advantage if attacked right. But if you ride it like an away rider you can pay the penalty, as the Witches have done on too many occasions.

The defeat to Sheffield was the Witches fourth home loss of the season. They have nearly won as many on the road, as at home. Not good enough.

Team manager Ritchie Hawkins holds a team talk ahead of the clash against the Panthers.

Team manager Ritchie Hawkins holds a team talk ahead of the clash against Peterborough a few weeks ago. - Credit: Steve Waller -www.stephenwaller.com

RITCHIE SAYS

Speaking after the defeat to Sheffield, team boss Ritchie Hawkins said.

"It's been a really disappointing season. It's not been good enough and certainly not been good enough keep losing at home.

"We now need to concentrate on the last two home meetings, get a couple of wins and entertain our loyal fans. Hopefully, at least supply a little bit of joy before the end of the season.

"Our season turned with that crash at Wolves with Jason. I don't think we could have envisaged how big an impact it would have on our year. We haven't been able to get over that.

"It was nice to see him tonight doing well. 

"You could make a case for all seven of our riders to be back next year for different and varying reasons but as a whole and as a team it hasn't worked as a seven."

Craig Cook and Jason Crump pictured ahead of the meeting.

Craig Cook and Jason Crump pictured ahead of the meeting against Sheffield. Can the Witches finish with a flourish? - Credit: Steve Waller -www.stephenwaller.com

WHAT NOW?

Well, there will certainly be places up for grabs in this Witches seven next year.

There is likely to be a couple, even three or four changes, as this season simply hasn't been good enough. The team hasn't been strong enough. Or performed consistently well enough.

And of course there is the question of whether Jason Crump will come back? Certainly he would be most welcome and, with a lower average, it would allow Chris Louis to build a strong team around him.

Jason Crump inside Adam Ellis in heat six with Jake Allen the rider in blue.

Jason Crump inside Adam Ellis in heat six with Jake Allen the rider in blue. - Credit: Steve Waller -www.stephenwaller.com

UP NEXT

The Witches entertain Wolverhampton on August 19. That will be a difficult one. They then finish their season with another trip to Sheffield, before home and away meetings with Peterborough. And, after that, an early winter break!

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