Half century should be enough for the play-offs

Robert Lambert misses the Sheffield meeting.
Robert Lambert misses the Sheffield meeting.
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Panthers have been set a 50-point target to seal their place in the Premier League play-offs.

Joint team boss Carl Johnson is convinced a half century will prove enough to clinch a top-six spot and a tilt at honours.

And, with the city racers having already banked 33 points from their 13 meetings to date, they are bang on track with almost half the season remaining.

Johnson said: “I feel sure that 50 points will guarantee a play-off place.

“We’ve done very well so far with our away record being particularly pleasing. We’ve actually picked up more points on the road than at home.

“The foundations for a very good season are in place and it is a case of staying focused and getting the remaining points we need,

“But we are not just going to settle for being in the top six – we want to finish as high as we possibly can.”

There is an added incentive with the top two finishers advancing straight to the semi-finals of the revamped play-offs. The sides finishing between third and sixth will contest the quarter-finals.

Panthers currently sit level with reigning champions Edinburgh at the Premier League summit and entertain another play-off chasing side tomorrow night when Sheffield visit the East of England Showground (7.30pm).

They will go into battle without teenage sensation Robert Lambert, who is still being troubled by the hip problem picked up when crashing out of a televised triumph at Berwick eight days ago.

Lambert’s new average of 8.53 has taken effect, but captain Ulrich Ostergaard remains at number one on his mark of 8.63. That means the youngster can only be covered by the rider replacement facility with Danish ace Michael Palm Toft cleared to return after a bout of chicken pox.

Johnson added: “It’s a big meeting for both teams with us in such close proximity in the table.

“A win would give us a bit more breathing space over them whereas a victory for Sheffield would see them leapfrog us and boost their own play-off hopes.

“They have drafted in a couple of guests who ride the Showground well so it could be a classic.”

Sheffield are plagued by injury problems with Andre Compton and Ashley Birks joining long-term absentee Simon Stead, arguably the top rider in the Premier League, on the casualty list.

They draft in Rye House man Edward Kennett and Berwick skipper Kevin Doolan as guests in addition to using the rider replacement facility.

Sheffield have signed Italian prospect Paco Castagna, but Tigers bosses have been forced to delay his debut to next week as he is still awaiting the arrival of equipment in this country.

PANTHERS’ REMAINING FIXTURES

Home – Sheffield (Jul 17), Edinburgh (Aug 9), Newcastle (Aug 21), Somerset (Aug 31), Scunthorpe (TBA).

Away – Workington (Jul 25), Glasgow (Jul 26), Edinburgh (Aug 7), Ipswich (Aug 27), Somerset (Aug 28), Rye House (TBA).