Comets crash to earth under Panthers onslaught

Panthers rider Brady Kurtz on his way to victory in heat six against the Workington Comets. Photo: David Lowndes.
Panthers rider Brady Kurtz on his way to victory in heat six against the Workington Comets. Photo: David Lowndes.
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The Peterborough Panthers juggernaut rolls on . . .

A 56-36 drubbing of a highly-touted Workington Comets team at the East of England Showground yesterday evening (May 10) carried the city chargers back to the top of the Premier League standings.

That’s now four successive victories in a sparkling start to the league campaign with maximum points in their possession. They are setting a scorching pace for the rest of the second tier to attempt to follow.

And on this evidence they will take a fair bit of pegging back. Panthers produced a performance that oozed strength in depth.

They slammed in 12 race wins (four of them from top-scoring captain Ulrich Ostergaard) and bagged 10 heat advantages (half of them involving the spectacular Danish skipper) as only one rider failed to take the chequered flag out in front.

And even that man, young reserve Ollie Greenwood, delivered a much-improved display to finish with paid five. When that’s the lowest score, there really isn’t a lot to complain about.

“We have a very strong team,” said proud team boss Carl Johnson. “And that means we have a strong pairing out on the track in virtually every race.

“We know that we are capable of really dominating a meeting and we did that against Workington after a bit of a tricky start.

“The track wasn’t ideal in the early races, but we didn’t let that affect us. We just got on with the job of keeping the good run of form going.

“Once we got into the groove we were very good and ran out convincing winners against a team that many people expect to be up there in the play-offs.

“We have started the league campaign in really good fashion and the challenge is to continue to deliver this standard of performance every time and at every place we race.”

Pre-match predictions of Panthers receiving their sternest test yet, against a Comets side boasting plenty of past Showground experience, failed to come to fruition.

In fact the visiting camp reportedly did plenty of pre-match whingeing as they were greeted by an Alwalton surface too grippy for their liking. Referee Tony Steele certainly carried out some thorough inspections of the surface before racing began.

It was somewhat surprising then that Workington started well. Sixteen-point man Ricky Wells, who was responsible for almost half of their total, won two of the opening three races, but he received little in the way of support.

Wells’ wins both earned 4-2s and sandwiched a maximum from Panthers reserves Simon Lambert and Greenwood in heat two. They were left to cruise in after the Comets duo of Nathan Greaves and Nicki Barrett tripped each other up.

Lambert matched Wells’ feat of two quickfire wins when returning to the track to take heat four after a fine overtaking move to pass British Under 21 champion Kyle Howarth.

Ostergaard recovered from the slowest of starts to take third and hand Panthers an advantage they would never again surrender although he did also cost himself a maximum with his four remaining rides all ending in victories.

Panthers gradually turned the screw and by the time Michael Palm Toft led in guest number one Brady Kurtz for a 5-1 in heat 10, their advantage had swelled into double figures.

Workington predictably turned to Wells for their tactical ride, but he could only play second-fiddle to Ostergaard in heat 11 as Panthers limited the damage to a 5-3 in favour of the visitors.

That still left the city men 10 points to the good and they doubled their lead during a flurry of four heat advantages in as many races to finish with a flourish.

The Lambert namesakes provided the first with Robert, fresh from his senior international debut for Great Britain the previous evening, taking glory in a heat 12 4-2.

That left Panthers on the brink of victory and they clinched their latest triumph in style as Ostergaard and Kurtz bagged a 5-1 in heat 13.

And they weren’t done there as Lewis Blackbird picked himself up off the track (he had taken evasive action to avoid the tumbling Comets reserve Nathan Greaves) to win the penultimate instalment before Ostergaard signed off with a spectacular success over Wells in the finale.

Panthers are back on track on Thursday (May 14) when they have a mouth-watering top-of-the-table clash at Sheffield.

The club will now be out of action the following night (May 15) due to the postponement of a scheduled home clash against Glasgow. The East of England Showground track is now unavailable and a new date is being sourced.

SCORES

PANTHERS: Ulrich Ostergaard 13, Michael Palm Toft 9, Robert Lambert 8+1, Simon Lambert 8, Brady Kurtz (guest) 7+2, Lewis Blackbird 7, Ollie Greenwood 4+1.

WORKINGTON: Ricky Wells 16, Kyle Howarth 8, Rene Bach 7, Kenneth Hansen 4+2, Nicki Barrett 1, Nathan Greaves 0, Rider replacement for Rusty Harrison.

HEATS

1 - Wells (60.2), Palm Toft, Hansen, Kurtz. 2-4, 2-4.

2 - S. Lambert (61.7), Greenwood, Barrett, Greaves (fell/remounted, ret). 5-1, 7-5.

3 - Wells (60.5), Blackbird, Bach, R. Lambert. 2-4, 9-9.

4 - S. Lambert (61.2), Howarth, Ostergaard, Greaves. 4-2, 13-11.

5 - R. Lambert (60.4), Wells, Hansen, Blackbird. 3-3, 16-14.

6 - re-run Kurtz (61.2), Howarth, Palm Toft, Barrett. 4-2, 20-16.

7 - Ostergaard (61.6), Bach, Greenwood, Greaves. 4-2, 24-18.

8 - Palm Toft (60.9), Wells, S. Lambert, Barrett. 4-2, 28-20.

9 - Howarth (61.4), Blackbird, R. Lambert, Barrett. 3-3, 31-23.

10 - Palm Toft (61.5), Kurtz, Howarth, Bach. 5-1, 36-24.

11 - Ostergaard (61.8), Wells (tac ride), Hansen, Greenwood. 3-5, 39-29.

12 - R. Lambert (61.1), Bach, S. Lambert, Barrett. 4-2, 43-31.

13 – re-run Ostergaard (61.5), Kurtz, Hansen, Howarth. 5-1, 48-32.

14 - re-run Blackbird (62.4), Bach, Greenwood, Greaves (fell/exc). 4-2, 52-34.

15 - re-run Ostergaard (61.5), Wells, R. Lambert, Howarth. 4-2, 56-36.