Ipswich Witches target league title following aggregate win in Knockout Cup final

Ipswich Witches captain Danny King
Witches captain Danny King contributed 22 points over the two-legged final

Ipswich Witches are setting their sights on a double after winning their first trophy for 25 years.

Chris Louis' team beat Sheffield Tigers 97-83 on aggregate in the Premiership Knockout Cup final.

And they now have the league title to shoot at, starting with a two-legged play-off semi-final against Belle Vue.

"We've got a trophy, we've got the monkey off our back and let's go and beat the champions next week," manager Ritchie Hawkins told BBC Radio Suffolk.

"It's the fourth final since I've been in charge and to finally get over the line this time, it was a brilliant performance, the boys were terrific, they showed everything we've improved on in the last two months and we go into next week buzzing now.

"Sheffield are a good team. They were here in the cup final for a reason but we did what we needed to do. The track suited us down to the ground. The boys loved it, it was a brilliant effort but we need to carry on now."

Since they were formed in 1950, Ipswich have now won the cup on six occasions, to go with four league titles.

Their last success, though, was in 1998, when they lifted both trophies with promoter Louis then part of the team.

"That year was phenomenal for the club, I think we had the Polish champion, the Swedish champion, the British champion. If we can have a repeat of that by winning the league, that would be fantastic. One down, one to go," said Louis.

The Witches trailed 48-42 from the first leg, but turned it around with a 55-35 victory in front of their own fans at Foxhall Stadium on Thursday.

Emil Sayfutdinov riding for Ipswich Witches
Emil Sayfutdinov was Ipswich's leading scorer in the second leg with 13 + 1

Emil Sayfutdinov and former world champion Jason Doyle were again major contributors, but it was long-serving skipper Danny King who put them in front on aggregate by winning heat nine.

"Over these two meetings Danny's been our top rider, such a massive contribution to winning this," Hawkins said. "It was a proper captain's performance, he stepped up to the plate and he's been brilliant. You can't praise him enough."

King has had three spells with Ipswich during his career and has won the Pairs title twice as well as becoming British champion in 2016.

"I've been here 14 seasons now and never managed to win anything in a team position, I'd started to think it wasn't going to happen," he said.

"But you never give up and that moment when I managed to lift the trophy in front of all those fans, it meant a lot to me and I know how much it meant to the club and the town."

It has been a year of sporting success for Suffolk following Ipswich Town winning promotion last season and they posted the simple message "Congratulations guys" on social media following the Witches' win.

And if Ipswich beat Belle Vue, it could lead to a re-match with Sheffield, who face Wolverhampton Wolves in the other semi-final.

Analysis - 'This means a lot'

BBC Radio Suffolk sports editor Graeme McLoughlin

Less than six months after the town's footballers pulled off an incredible feat by winning promotion, the Ipswich Witches have ended their long wait for a major trophy in a magnificent style of their own.

Heat leaders Emil Sayfutdinov and Jason Doyle have lit up British Speedway all season long, but the whole roster of riders and club officials deserve praise for this triumph.

Promoter Chris Louis and team manager Ritchie Hawkins have invested more than 40 years in the club between them, and captain Danny King first raced for the club as a 16-year-old back in 2003, so this means a lot.

It was their night, and a passionate home support was invited onto the track to celebrate with their riders as the Knockout Cup was lifted high.

Having miraculously qualified for the end of season play-offs, Ipswich's next major piece of silverware could just be a couple of weeks away. They race Belle Vue in the first leg of their semi-final in Manchester on Monday.