DANNY Ford believes Ipswich, Pirates’ opponents tomorrow, are “one of our biggest rivals” for the SGB Premiership title.

Poole are level with the Witches atop the table with 36 points apiece, although Pirates do have two meetings in hand and lead the way on points difference.

The two sides have met four times in league and cup this campaign with Pirates coming out on top on three occasions, including the most recent meeting on July 18.

And Ford is expecting another tight tussle at Wimborne Road tomorrow evening (7.30pm).

Pirates’ co-promoter told the club website: “In many ways, I think we are Ipswich’s bogey team this year as we’ve managed to secure wins at home against them and a solid victory at Foxhall – the only team to beat them at their place so far this season.

“But the two league meetings at Wimborne Road have been close and it’s fair to say they have one or two riders who love our track almost as much as they love beating us!”

Under the guidance of Ritchie Hawkins, the Witches have relished life back in the top flight for the first time in eight years.

But their form has dipped in recent weeks, winning just two of their previous eight meetings and they head to Dorset having lost 57-33 at King’s Lynn on Monday evening.

However, Ford believes the Suffolk outfit, who sit four points clear of third-placed Belle Vue, pose a real challenge to Poole’s Premiership crown.

He said: “I’d say Ipswich are one of our biggest rivals, firstly to achieving a play-off spot and then, if we can maintain our current position, in the play-offs themselves.

“There’s a bit of gap developing in the table between the top three and the rest, although Swindon have meetings in hand where they can make up the deficit.

“There are some key meetings coming up for all sides in the next few weeks.

“We’ve got four at home and four away between now and September 12, so they’re coming thick and fast and it’s still all to play for.”

Witches have been forced to use rider replacement for Cameron Heeps for tomorrow’s clash. He was taken to hospital during their defeat at King’s Lynn after suffering tendon and ligament damage in his knee and ankle following a tangle with Thomas Jorgensen in heat five.

Pirates are set to name an unchanged line-up from the one which beat Peterborough Panthers 50-40 last week.

Pirates: Jack Holder, rider replacement for Richie Worrall, Nicolai Klindt, Josh Grajczonek, Brady Kurtz, Nico Covatti, Ricky Wells.

Witches: Chris Harris, rider replacement for Cameron Heeps, Danny King, Jake Allen, Richard Lawson, Edward Kennett, Krystian Pieszczek.