Peterborough Panthers’ injury curse has struck again on the eve of one of their most important meetings of the season so far.
The city side were dealt a blow when Lewis Blackbird opted to take a break from racing in a bid to get to the bottom of a long-standing injury causing back and rib pain.
The locally born and based racer has been in discomfort since crashing out of a KO Cup first round, first leg clash against Plymouth almost two months ago and was due to visit hospital yesterday (July 16).
He has been signed off with immediate effect which means he will miss a crunch Premier League home clash against fellow play-off chasers Sheffield at the East of England Showground tonight (July 17, 7.30pm).
And it is currently unclear as to how long the 28 year-old will be sidelined with the rider and club both declining to put a timescale on the situation.
Blackbird, who also rides for Wolverhampton in the Elite League, said: “I don’t want to let my clubs down, but I’ve got to try to get myself sorted.
“I’ve not really felt right every since the crash at Peterborough in May.
“I’ve been seeing an osteopath, who felt I had twisted my spine, and I’ve been taking all sorts of painkillers, but I’m not getting any better.
“I was in a hell of a lot of pain when travelling back from the meeting at Berwick last Wednesday and went straight to the doctors’ the following morning.
“The doctor was adamant I had a chest infection, but a week on I’m still feeling no better and I just didn’t have the strength to ride the bike when I was riding for Wolverhampton on Wednesday.”
Panthers responded to their latest setback with an eye-catching guest booking.
They have drafted in highly-rated Danish ace Nicklas Porsing of Elite League side King’s Lynn to replace Blackbird against the Tigers.
Porsing, who is in his third season of top-flight racing, is well-known to joint Panthers team boss Dale Allitt, who is also involved in the Lynn set-up.
Two of Porsing’s countrymen, Michael Palm Toft and Emil Grondal, also return but Panthers will still only be able to track six riders with teenage talent Robert Lambert ruled out by the hip problem sustained in a spectacular crash at Berwick nine days ago.
Club promoter Ged Rathbone admitted: “The only luck we seem to get is bad luck.
“It has been one injury problem after another, and it goes without saying that Lewis will be a massive loss.
“But we need him to get himself fully fit and find his best form. We’ll give him the time he needs to do that and hopefully he will be firing again for later in the season when we hope to be in the play-offs.
“In the meantime we are delighted to have secured the services of Nicklas for tonight.
“We have consistently managed to book guests who have performed well and Dale deserves particular praise for using his King’s Lynn connections to be able to draft in a rider of Nicklas’ calibre.
“It is testament to the hard work of all the riders and management that we are in a position where we can challenge for a play-off spot given the amount of problems we have had to overcome.”
Panthers will return to the top of the Premier League table with a victory tonight.
They currently sit two points behind reigning champions Edinburgh, who drew at Ipswich last night.
Visitors Sheffield, who are two places and two points behind Panthers in the standings, but have ridden in two more meetings, also have injury problems.
Their number one Simon Stead – a long-term casualty – has been joined on the casualty list more recently by Ashley Birks and Andre Compton.
The Tigers have borrowed Rye House man Eddie Kennett and Berwick skipper Kevin Doolan as guests for a vital fixture for both teams.
Sheffield did announce the signing of Italian rider Paco Castagna earlier this week, but say he is not in a position to race as yet due to equipment having not arrived.
PANTHERS: Ulrich Ostergaard, Emil Grondal, Nicklas Porsing (guest), Michael Palm Toft, Rider replacement for Robert Lambert, Rafal Konopka, Simon Lambert.
SHEFFIELD: Edward Kennett (guest), Rider replacement for Ashley Birks, David Bellego, Kevin Doolan (guest), Jason Garrity, Arthur Sissis, Josh Bates.