Ben Barker nearly inspires Plymouth Devils to away victory
Ipswich Witches...47 Plymouth Devils...46
BEN BARKER nearly inspired the Plymouth Devils to their first away win of the season last night.
Barker, back to his best, scored a maximum 18 points as the Devils lost by just one single point in a re-arranged League Cup meet at Ipswich Witches.
The Great Britain international could not have done more to try and help Mike Bowden's side, winning heats one, five, 11 (tactical ride), 13 and 15.
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But the Devils missed out after Cory Cathercole and James Holder failed to back up Barker and Nicki Glanz in heats 13 and 14.
The visitors, having been 31-23 down at one point, closed the gap to just five in heat 12 with Ryan Fisher taking victory.
But the next two races were drawn 3-3 meaning Devils could not snatch victory in the last event of the evening, even though Barker and Fisher finished first and second.
Bowden, though, will take heart from last night's narrow loss.
The Devils went into the meet knowing that, unlike their hosts, they had no chance of winning the cup after losing three of their first four fixtures.
But the performance away from home will suggest the Devils could have better luck this weekend.
This evening they take on Glasgow in the first round of the Premier Knockout Cup at the St Boniface Arena (7.30pm), while on Sunday they travel to bottom club Leicester in the League Cup.
Ipswich: Leigh Lanham 7+1, Taylor Poole (R/R), Kevin Doolan 12, Dakota North 7+1, Mathieu Tresarrieu 7+3, Cameron Heeps 4+1, Rohan Tungate 10+3.
Devils: Ben Barker 18, Todd Kurtz 5+1, Ryan Fisher 12+1, James Holder 0, Cory Gathercole 6, Nicki Glanze 5, Gino Franchetti 0.
THE Devils will have to rethink their tactics against Glasgow tonight after the Scottish outfit confirmed two late signings to boost their team.
Devils are trying to record their second victory of what has been so far a rain-affected season.
Plymouth's first win of 2012 came on April 20, a 47-43 victory against Leicester in the League Cup.
Since then, Devils have either lost their meetings – or had them rained off.
The city team were up against it anyway tonight – Glasgow are being led by former British champion Joe Screen.
Now they will also be facing new signings Czech Republic rider Filipe Sitera and Englishman Chris Mills.
Sitera has been a target for a couple of weeks while Mills had a reasonable season with Ipswich last year.
The riders making way for the new boys are New Zealander Jade Mudgway and Australian Robert Ksiezak.
Plymouth promoter and chairman Mike Bowden said: "We don't know anything about the new signings – Glasgow got permission to get them late on.
"However, they (Glasgow) have not been having a great season, so hopefully we might be able to get a win against them."
Bowden has made it clear that Devils' focus is on doing well in the Premier League, rather than cup competitions.
But he added: "Let's try and get past Glasgow first before we sit down and have a look at things and how important the cup is."
Bowden was generous in his assessment of Screen, who won the British title in 1996 and 2004.
Bowden said: "It will be a great opportunity for our supporters to see Joe Screen in action.
"He is a speedway legend and a very able rider, who will lead by example."
The Devils will be looking to bounce back from their narrow home Premier League defeat by Somerset in the first leg of the first round tie.
The deciding leg takes place at Glasgow on Sunday, May 27 with the winners facing either Edinburgh or Rye House.
Providing the main back up for Screen will be experienced Scot James Grieves and Australian Josh Grajczonek, back in action again after a premature end to last season when he suffered a broken thigh in a crash, at Plymouth.
Completing the side at reserve are two 18-year-old Australians Mason Campton and Jayden O'Malley.
Plymouth: Ben Barker, Todd Kurtz, Ryan Fisher, James Holder, Cory Gathercole. Reserves: Nicki Glanz, Gino Franchetti.
Glasgow: Joe Screen, Chris Mills, Filipe Sitera, Josh Grajczonek, James Grieves. Reserves: Mason Campton, Jayden O'Malley.
PLYMOUTH'S American star Ryan Fisher won the Gary Peterson Memorial meeting at Wolverhampton.
Fisher qualified for the semi-finals by scoring seven points from his four qualifying races and reached the final after finishing second to former Plymouth rider Ricky Wells in the semi-final.
He then won the final with Wells as runner-up with Ty Proctor, who top scored with 10 points in the qualifying heats, taking third place.