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Birmingham v Belle Vue


IPSWICH were one of the biggest stories of 2023 with a high-profile line-up, a dramatic charge to the play-offs, an incredible semi-final win, and then a heartbreaking Grand Final defeat.

The Witches still await their first league title since 1998 but they went agonisingly close last year and did put full team silverware in the Foxhall trophy cabinet when they won the KO Cup.

For much of the Premiership campaign they seemed set to just miss out on the top four, hampered by niggling injuries and illnesses and some costly home defeats.

But whenever Ipswich got to Heat 15 with the chance of winning, they invariably did so thanks to their stunning spearhead of EMIL SAYFUTDINOV and JASON DOYLE with Sayfutdinov making a spectacular return to British racing and Doyle as consistent as ever.

They eventually squeezed into fourth place thanks to their own good run and a drop-off by Leicester, and having hit a rich vein of form they eliminated defending champions Belle Vue in the play-off semi-finals, with their top two producing an in incredible effort to foil the Aces’ comeback in the very last race at the National Speedway Stadium.

And they appeared to have one hand on the trophy when they defeated Sheffield 54-36 in the first leg of the Grand Final, only to fall victim to a brilliant Tigers performance in the return, as this time they missed out in a last-heat decider.

However, it was no surprise that bosses Chris Louis and Ritchie Hawkins were in no mood to make wholesale changes for 2024, and the Witches will therefore come to the tapes with only two changes to their top six.

Sayfutdinov and Doyle are both back to lead from the front, and long-serving skipper DANNY KING continues in the third heat-leader role.

After a first season in the UK where he showed plenty of promise, Australian youngster KEYNAN REW is back for a second year with the club, and there is further middle-order strength provided by the signing of ADAM ELLIS.

Having seen his average drop below six during a 2023 campaign where things didn’t work out with Sheffield, Ellis now returns to a club he represented at Championship level a decade ago, and also joins up with Doyle again having won two league titles in the same team at Swindon.

At reserve, the Witches have moved for the fast-improving JORDAN JENKINS who has graduated from the Rising Star berth after an excellent season with Peterborough last year, and he is joined in that position by DAN THOMPSON who was making some important contributions after coming into the team last summer, before suffering a shoulder injury in August which ruled him out of the closing weeks.

After coming so close in 2023, Louis and Hawkins will hope their minor tweaks rather than major surgery will take the Witches that one step further to the league title they crave.

Emil Sayfutdinov 10.10

Jason Doyle 9.12

Danny King 7.05

Adam Ellis 5.57

Keynan Rew 4.00

Jordan Jenkins 3.16

Dan Thompson RS

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