KO CUP FINAL: Panthers make it an honours double after dramatic finale

Peterborough Panthers celebrate their KO Cup success.
Peterborough Panthers celebrate their KO Cup success.
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When Peterborough Panthers win a trophy, they do it with maximum drama.

The city men survived a tension-packed climax in the final race of the final meeting of the season to lift the SGB Championship KO Cup last night (October 26).

Chris Harris top scored for Panthers.

Chris Harris top scored for Panthers.

Panthers drew 45-45 in the second leg at Ipswich to secure a 92-88 aggregate triumph over their East Anglian rivals.

A four-point home win in the first leg last weekend actually proved decisive despite being a source of considerable disappointment at the time.

It was a triumph complete with so many sub-plots that it could be turned into a novel - not least of all the loss of influential Ipswich riders to injury in both legs.

But it was one which came complete with a happy ending for Panthers as they completed an honours double by adding this piece of silverware to their Fours crown.

Top-scorer Chris Harris and guest Ben Barker had to avoid being on the receiving end of a 5-1 in the Foxhall finale with Panthers four points up on aggregate.

And while Witches guest Scott Nicholls (who had actually ridden for Panthers in the first leg!) eased clear to victory, the Panthers pair were comfortable in the minor places until the contest was awarded when Cameron Heeps tumbled out of last place on the closing lap.

Panthers have been repeatedly written off and regularly slagged off of late, but they couldn’t be shaken off.

Twice they under-performed at home - both in the semi-final against holders Glasgow and then in the showpiece against Ipswich - but twice they put it right on the road.

Their aggregate cushion was wiped out in just five races last night, but the major incident followed in heat six.

Witches number one Danny King was clipped by partner Nathan Greaves leaving the second bend. He ploughed through the safety fence and onto the stock car circuit which surrounds the speedway track at Foxhall.

The track ambulance was quickly on the scene and a suspected broken wrist ruled King out of the remainder of the meeting. It was another cruel blow for the hosts who had also seen their second-best rider, Rory Schlein, spectacularly crash out of the opening leg last Sunday.

Panthers failed to take advantage on that occasion when building up a 14-point cushion only for it to be slashed by a rousing Ipswich revival.

It was a fightback which made them hot favourites to capture the crown on home shake, but things can change very quickly in this business.

Ipswich initially kicked on following the loss of King, with a 5-1 in heat eight – mled by Greaves – being followed by a 4-2 in the next contest.

That left them four points up overall, but Panthers responded well. Paul Starke and skipper Ulrich Ostergaard roared to a 5-1 in heat 10 (a race in which they would have faced King but ended up meeting two Reserves) before Barker inspired a 4-2 in the next race when out-trapping and then holding off the previously unbeaten Nicholls.

Starke produced a peach of a ride to triumph in a shared 12th heat before Harris led the way as Panthers edged closer to success with a 4-2 in the next race.

They missed a golden opportunity to wrap it up when Ostergaard was stuck at the rear in a penultimate contest won by reserve Simon Lambert at a track he loathes.

But there was no need to panic as Harris and Barker coolly went about their business in the last race to ensure the celebrations could begin.

Incredibly Panthers have won both pieces of silverware this year while without their number one - and the absence of Jack Holder has been somewhat controversial on both occasions.

He missed the Fours triumph after being granted permission to race in Poland - a situation which sparked a storm that is still rippling today with the club’s future in the balance as a result of the heavy financial penalties dished out to owner Ged Rathbone.

And Holder was again absent for the final three meetings of the club’s KO Cup journey due to illness. He was signed off with tonsillitis and has now returned to his native Australia.

Barker, who failed to appear for a guest booking in the summer, showed up in style on this occasion to prove a more than able deputy for Holder. Fellow guest Jack Parkinson-Blackburn also contributed handily at reserve.

And while Bradley Wilson-Dean drew a blank on his return from illness, the Kiwi was a deserving part of the trophy-winning team after being such a star earlier in the campaign.

The KO Cup success provided another proud moment for team manager Carl Johnson and gave outgoing promoter Trevor Swales a glorious farewell.

Supporters will no doubt be hoping the same thing doesn’t apply to owner Rathbone, whose third season at the helm has come complete with two trophies.

SCORES

IPSWICH: Cameron Heeps 13+1, Scott Nicholls (guest) 13, Nathan Greaves 8+1, Kyle Newman 5, Connor Mountain 3+1, Danny King 3 (withdrawn), Rider replacement for Justin Sedgmen.

PANTHERS: Chris Harris 12, Ben Barker (guest) 9+1, Paul Starke 8+2, Ulrich Ostergaard 6+1, Simon Lambert 6+1, Jack Parkinson-Blackburn (guest) 4+1, Bradley Wilson-Dean 0.

HEATS

1 - King (56.3), Barker, Newman, Wilson-Dean. 4-2, 4-2.

2 - Greaves (57.8), Parkinson-Blackburn, Lambert, Mountain. 3-3, 7-5.

3 - Heeps (58.8), Ostergaard, Starke, Newman (fell). 3-3, 10-8.

4 - Nicholls (56.8), Harris, Parkinson-Blackburn, Mountain. 3-3, 13-11.

5 - Heeps (56.6), Barker, Newman, Wilson-Dean (ret). 4-2, 17-13.

6 - re-run Harris (58.5), Mountain, Lambert, Greaves (fell/exc). 2-4, 19-17.

7 - Nicholls (57.3), Ostergaard, Starke, Greaves (fell). 3-3, 22-20.

8 - Greaves (58.4), Heeps, Parkinson-Blackburn, Wilson-Dean. 5-1, 27-21.

9 - Heeps (57.4), Harris, Newman, Parkinson-Blackburn (ret). 4-2, 31-23.

10 - Starke (57.6), Ostergaard, Greaves, Mountain. 1-5, 32-28. Level on aggregate 75-75.

11 - Barker (57.4), Nicholls, Lambert, Mountain. 2-4, 34-32.

12 - Starke (57.1), Heeps, Greaves, Parkinson-Blackburn. 3-3, 37-35.

13 - Harris (57.4), Nicholls, Barker, Mountain. 2-4, 39-39.

14 - re-run Lambert (59.1), Newman, Mountain, Ostergaard. 3-3, 42-42.

15 – Nicholls (awarded), Harris, Barker, Heeps (fell/exc). 3-3, 45-45.