Panthers chief purring after near-perfect Premier League start

Richard Lawson was in fine form for Panthers at Redcar.

Richard Lawson was in fine form for Panthers at Redcar.

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Peterborough Panthers team boss Carl Johnson dished out the plaudits after a near-perfect start to the Premier League season last night (April 23).

The city racers powered to a comprehensive 49-32 triumph at Redcar with another dominant away display in a meeting abandoned after 13 completed races.

It was a third successive victory on the road and another loud and clear statement of intent from a Panthers side benefitting from excellent contributions from two guest riders.

Stand-in number one Richard Lawson roared to a hat-trick of heat wins on his way to a top-scoring 10 points while Claus Vissing won all three of his completed races as he deputised for Robert Lambert.

And they received plenty of assistance from the remainder of the Panthers corps on a night when they claimed 10 heat advantages and all seven of their riders were at least paid for a heat victory.

It all added up to a handsome success for promoter Ged Rathbone to celebrate in his own North-East backyard.

“Ged was over the moon,” said Johnson. “And it was exactly the start to the league season we all wanted.

“We felt we could get a result and we are delighted to come away with all four league points.

“We set out our stall early on with advantages in the opening four heats and we continued to apply the pressure.

“The two guests were fantastic and it was a terrific all-round team performance with everyone contributing well.

“The only slight disappointment is that the meeting was abandoned as I felt we could have gone on to win by even more than the 17-point margin.”

The action was halted due to the need for a county ambulance to be called after Redcar man Hugh Skidmore suffered a dislocated shoulder when tumbling in the early stages of heat 14.

Lewis Blackbird and improved reserve Ollie Greenwood would have fancied their chances of another heat advantage over struggling home rider Ben Morley had the re-run of that race taken place while Johnson had already earmarked top guests Lawson and Vissing for the finale.

Blackbird had earlier had to take smart evasive action to lay down his machine after Redcar man Stuart Robson hit the deck following a mechanical failure in heat three.

That race was awarded as a 4-2 – one of three managed by Panthers in the opening four races. They also bagged a 5-1 as Greenwood followed in reserve partner Simon Lambert for a maximum in the second instalment.

Redcar did briefly rally with a couple of advantages of their own before Lambert and Michael Palm Toft took the chequered flag in back-to-back Panthers 5-1s.

Lambert proved an able deputy for Vissing in heat seven after the Dane had been excluded for breaking the starting tapes.

Redcar made the most of their tactical ride mission in heat nine when Robson and Skidmore combined for an 8-1, but Panthers again provided the perfect response with two more 5-1s of their own. Vissing and Blackbird did the business in heat 10 before Lawson and Palm Toft teamed up to good effect in the next race.

A Vissing-inspired 4-2 in heat 12 clinched victory and all four league points with three races to spare and a further blow was inflicted in a re-run 13th contest.

Lawson dusted himself down to take victory after being dumped on the deck by Redcar number one Lasse Bjerre, who surprisingly avoided an exclusion, in the initial staging.

And that race proved to be the last action of another memorable night for a Panthers side fast becoming known as away specialists.

They will hope to further enhance that reputation tonight (April 24) when travelling to Somerset for their final Premier League Cup Southern Group clash.

Panthers have only slim hopes of qualifying for the latter stages, but are likely to need four league points when facing the Rebels at the Oaktree Arena (7.30pm).

They are four points behind group leaders Rye House, who have completed their fixtures, and also trail Ipswich by two points. The Witches go to bottom side Plymouth tonight.

Panthers have drafted in popular Danish ace Kenneth Hansen to guest at number one while his countryman Vissing again fills in for Robert Lambert.

They are likely to use the rider replacement facility to cover the absence of Lewis Blackbird, who rides in the Elite League for Wolverhampton.

SCORES

REDCAR 32: Stuart Robson 10+1, Lasse Bjerre 8, Hugh Skidmore 7+1, Matej Kus 3, Rafal Konopka 2, Jan Graversen 1, Ben Morley 1

PANTHERS 49: Richard Lawson (guest) 10, Simon Lambert 9+1, Claus Vissing (guest) 9, Ulrich Ostergaard 7, Michael Palm Toft 6+1, Lewis Blackbird 5+2, Oliver Greenwood 3+1.