Peterborough Panthers overcame plucky opponents and undesired track conditions to extend their winning run to four Premier League Cup meetings this afternoon (April 12).
But a 48-42 triumph over Plymouth Devils at the East of England Showground, which took them back into a share of Southern Group leadership, generated a wide range of emotions.
In some quarters there was frustration at the failure to again prepare a grippy enough surface for an afternoon meeting. It is a frequent problem at the Alwalton venue and one which doesn’t appear to have a quick fix.
There was also disappointment that it took Panthers half a meeting to find their feet against a team they had thumped in the reverse fixture only two days earlier. One social media ranter even felt the need to describe it as ‘embarrassing’ when Panthers trailed by four points.
But there was also pride at the character eventually shown as a purple patch of four heat advantages in the space of five races swung the pendulum Panthers’ way.
Robert Lambert and Lewis Blackbird kicked things off as a maximum effort in heat nine hauled the home team level before guest number one Lasse Bjerre and Michael Palm Toft came agonisingly close to another maximum in the next race.
Bjerre took the chequered flag, but they had to settle for a 4-2 as Palm Toft was pipped by Newman in the final metres.
A narrow Panthers lead was quickly wiped out in a terrific 11th heat in which skipper Ulrich Ostergaard lost out to Ryan Fisher in the battle for victory, but back-to-back five ones soon had them in command.
The Lamberts – Robert and Simon – did the business in heat 12 with the latter gradually reeling in Sam Simota and then nipping past on the final lap.
Then Bjerre dragged himself out from under the air fence (a position he’d been helped into by Fisher, who was excluded), climbed out of the back of the ambulance and won the re-run of heat 13 with his captain and countryman Ostergaard in tow.
Ostergaard was just getting the better of a titanic tussle with another Dane, Morten Risager, when the Plymouth rider fell early on the final lap. He got his machine going again to limp round for a point and a sympathetic round of applause.
A share of the spoils in the penultimate race confirmed Panthers’ victory but they couldn’t prevent Plymouth from leaving with a point as visiting captain Kyle Newman’s third success of the afternoon inspired a 4-2 in the finale.
Panthers team boss Carl Johnson said: “It was a tough afternoon, but we dragged ourselves back into the meeting and had the will to win it.
“The boys are all pulling together well and the team spirit is getting better all the time. We’re struggling to get the surface right at the minute, but we’ll work on it.
“We are right there in with a chance of qualifying from this group with one meeting to go. I think we would all have settled for being in that position after the difficult start to the season we endured.”
As predicted ahead of the meeting by Ostergaard, the Devils were much stronger at the Showground than they had been at the St Boniface Arena two days earlier.
The presence of their Newman alone, who piled up 13 points, saw to that while Fisher, a Panthers rider in the last two seasons, was also much-improved at his former base.
Jack Holder, the younger brother of former world champion Chris, also found Alwalton to his liking. He won his first-ever ride at the track in heat one and also grabbed a valuable point for third spot in heat 15.
Despite voicing their displeasure at the conditions, the vast majority of Panthers riders rode well. Their final scorecard was a picture of strength in depth with Ostergaard leading the way on 11+1.
Robert Lambert continued his fine form with a handy nine points while four other riders all contributed seven apiece. Only reserve Ollie Greenwood, who hit the deck in heat seven, failed to score as his difficult start to the campaign continued.
Panthers now face an 11 day break until they visit Redcar on Thursday, April 23 in their Premier League opener. They then travel to Somerset the following night for their one remaining League Cup clash.
PANTHERS: Ulrich Ostergaard 11+1, Robert Lambert 9, Lewis Blackbird 7+3, Simon Lambert 7+2, Lasse Bjerre (guest) 7+1, Michael Palm Toft 7, Ollie Greenwood 0.
PLYMOUTH: Kyle Newman 13, Jack Holder 8, Ryan Fisher 7, Morten Risager 7, Matt Williamson (guest) 3, Ashley Morris 2+1, Sam Simota 2.
1 - Holder (60.6), Palm Toft, Fisher, Bjerre. 2-4, 2-4.
2 - Williamson (62.5), Morris, S. Lambert, Greenwood. 1-5, 3-9.
3 - re-run Blackbird (61.5), Newman, R. Lambert, Simota. 4-2, 7-11.
4 - Ostergaard (61.2), Risager, S. Lambert, Morris. 4-2, 11-13.
5 - Fisher (60.3), R. Lambert, Blackbird, Holder. 3-3, 14-16.
6 - Risager (61.6), Palm Toft, Bjerre, Williamson. 3-3, 17-19.
7 - re-run Newman (61.8), Ostergaard, Simota, Greenwood (fell/exc). 2-4, 19-23.
8 - Holder (61.7), Palm Toft, S. Lambert, Morris. 3-3, 22-26.
9 - R. Lambert (62.0), Blackbird, Risager, Williamson. 5-1, 27-27.
10 - Bjerre (61.7), Newman, Palm Toft, Simota. 4-2, 31-29.
11 - Fisher (62.8), Ostergaard, Holder, Greenwood. 2-4, 33-33.
12 - R. Lambert (62.0), S. Lambert, Simota, Morris. 5-1, 38-34.
13 - re-run Bjerre (62.7), Ostergaard, Risager (fell/remounted), Fisher (fell/exc). 5-1, 43-35.
14 - Newman, S. Lambert, Blackbird, Morris (ret). 3-3, 46-38.
15 - Newman (63.7), Ostergaard, Holder, R. Lambert. 2-4, 48-42.