MATCH REPORT: Perfect Panthers reach the summit again after a sixth straight win

Craig Cook of Panthers leads heat six against Plymouth. Photo: David Lowndes.
Craig Cook of Panthers leads heat six against Plymouth. Photo: David Lowndes.
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The Peterborough Panthers juggernaut hurtled back to the top of the Premier League last night (June 21).

Another set of highly-touted opponents were excitingly and efficiently brushed aside as the city racers swept to a 55-34 success against Plymouth.

Riders on the ground after a heat six spill in last night's meeting between Panthers and Plymouth. Photo: David Lowndes.

Riders on the ground after a heat six spill in last night's meeting between Panthers and Plymouth. Photo: David Lowndes.

It was the latest in a long line of thrilling spectacles at the East of England Showground with the majority of the racing being considerably closer than the eventual scoreline.

A power-packed burst of five advantages in the final five races gave Panthers the sort of dominance that hadn’t always appeared likely.

They were briefly behind early on and only five points to the good at two-thirds distance before flexing their mechanical muscle as a hat-trick of 5-1s were sandwiched by a couple of 4-2s.

And it was a complete performance from them as four of their six riders roared into double figures on a night when their winning streak was extended to six meetings.

Panthers skipper Ulrich Ostergaard (left) in heat four action against Plymouth. Photo: David Lowndes.

Panthers skipper Ulrich Ostergaard (left) in heat four action against Plymouth. Photo: David Lowndes.

No wonder captain Ulrich Ostergaard was a happy man. He said: “Plymouth have a very good team and they showed last season that they really like riding at our place as well.

“But we proved what we are capable of doing when the majority of the boys are on fire and it was great for our confidence to get such a big win.

“It’s six wins in a row now and that doesn’t happen by fluke. We are definitely showing everyone that we mean business this season and that has to continue.

“We have a really strong team from Craig Cook at the top down to Simon Lambert and Zdenek Holub at reserve.”

Ostergaard is not wrong. Ten race-winners and nine heat advantages highlighted the strength of a Peterborough side still without injured Tom Perry.

There was a time when being on the receiving end of a 5-1 in the opening race was followed by the realisation of a long night being ahead for Panthers.

These days such a setback – as suffered at the hands of Plymouth brothers Brady and Todd Kurtz last night – can simply be shrugged off.

Panthers turned a four-point deficit into a four-point advantage by the end of heat four courtesy of back-to-back 5-1s from Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen/Emil Grondal and Ostergaard/Holub combinations.

They edged further ahead when Cook inspired a 4-2 in heat six as he went from a distant last to a decisive winner in the space of two laps before an unusual 3-2 outcome followed in the next race.

Devils rider Sam Simota was excluded for venturing onto the centre green on his way to the tapes, falling foul of a new ruling introduced for this season.

And the visitors were another man down after Kyle Newman was involved in a spectacular spill with Holub as they battled over second spot while going through the final bend on the final lap.

The Panthers’ man, who was excluded by referee Dave Dowling for a forceful blast down the inside of his rival, was able to continue whereas Newman departed for hospital with a suspected collar-bone injury.

That blow didn’t stop Plymouth taking a chunk out of their arrears when Jack Holder took the flag in a 4-2 in heat nine – but the visitors’ second gain of the night proved to be their last.

Cook roared round the outside of busy Plymouth reserve Stefan Nielsen to ensure a shared outcome in heat 10 before Panthers really upped the ante.

Lambert ended two unbeaten records – those of Devils ace Todd Kurtz and his own captain Ostergaard – with a terrific success in a heat 11 4-2 before following in the back-on-song Busk Jakobsen in the next instalment.

And, when Ostergaard led in Cook for another 5-1 in heat 13, Panthers’ latest victory was assured with a couple of races to spare. There was no let-up, though.

Lambert completed another top-scoring display as he and Grondal both flew past Nielsen to continue the charge in heat 14 before Cook took the finale by a country mile with Ostergaard snatching third as Brady Kurtz suffered a mechanical mishap on the final lap.

Panthers now sit a point clear of Glasgow at the second-tier summit, but they’re likely to have slipped down the standings by the time they return to league action on July 12 against bottom side Scunthorpe at the Showground.

Before then, they take on Somerset in a KO Cup quarter-final. The first leg is in the South West next Tuesday (June 28) ahead of a Sunday, July 3 return at Alwalton.

SCORES

PANTHERS: Simon Lambert 12+2, Craig Cook 11+1, Ulrich Ostergaard 11, Niokolaj Busk Jakobsen 10, Emil Grondal 8+3, Zdenek Holub 3+2, Rider replacement for Tom Perry.

PLYMOUTH: Todd Kurtz 10+1, Jack Holder 8, Stefan Nielsen 7, Brady Kurtz 3, Kyle Newman 3 (withdrawn), Sam Simota 2+1, Ellis Perks 1.