MEETING PREVIEW: Passionate promoter appeals for more fans, more points and more success

Panthers promoter Ged Rathbone.

Panthers promoter Ged Rathbone.

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Peterborough Panthers promoter Ged Rathbone has called for the club’s management, riders and supporters to pull together ahead of a crucial meeting tonight (July 15).

The city team’s season is in danger of nosediving after a run of three successive defeats which has seen them annihilated by Somerset in both legs of a KO Cup quarter-final exit before suffering a surprise Premier League home defeat at the hands of lowly Scunthorpe three days ago.

Simon Stead guests for Panthers against Berwick.

Simon Stead guests for Panthers against Berwick.

Rathbone described the latter meeting as the low point of his time at the Panthers helm for on and off-track reasons.

Now he wants to see an improved performance, result and turnout when they take on Berwick at the East of England Showground tonight (7.30pm).

Rathbone said: “Tuesday night was probably the worst I’ve had as promoter of Panthers.

“The performance was disappointing, the result was obviously disappointing and the size of the crowd was also disappointing.

Tom Stokes rides for Panthers against Berwick.

Tom Stokes rides for Panthers against Berwick.

“We’re currently in a situation where we have been dealt a couple of big injury blows and we need everyone to pull together.

“I have always said we are one family here - management, riders and supporters. We are all in it together and we all want to be successful.

“That is why people fought so hard to keep speedway alive, deliver a successful team and put a deal in place with Readypower to take the club on ourselves at the end of the season.

“The fans make a huge difference. If anyone doesn’t believe me, just ask one of the riders.

“The atmosphere can be really special here at the Showground. We saw that in the big play-off meetings last season and we have to re-create that on a regular basis.

“We lost a lot of money on Tuesday night - and I am not a bank! I’m a prudent businessman and this club has to break even.

“The bottom line though, is that we have to give the fans better performances and results than we have managed at home for much of this season.

“We have already been beaten four times at the Showground and that is not acceptable.

“I’m well aware of the fact there have been issues with the track, but it is the same for both teams.

“This is a professional sport and those taking part in it should have the team around them who are able to react to any conditions they encounter and make the adjustments necessary.

“I don’t feel that happened on Tuesday, or in several other home meetings so far in 2016, and it has to change.

“We face another very tough meeting against Berwick, but it is one we have to win.

“I’m hoping for a good performance, a good result and a good turnout to put us back on track.”

It is a clash of the fourth and third-placed teams in the Premier League standings tonight.

Panthers go into action one point behind their visitors, but they do boast four meetings in hand.

Berwick arrive on the back of a heavy defeat last night when they were thumped 58-34 at Ipswich.

They will meet a patched-up Panthers team featuring guest Simon Stead at number one and squad rider Tom Stokes at reserve.

Stead, a product of the Peterborough youth system of the late 1990s, stands in for Craig Cook who has an Elite League engagement.

Stokes steps in for the second successive meeting to deputise for the injured Zdenek Holub. He partners short-term recruit Ashley Morris, who made his debut against Scunthorpe, at reserve again.

TEAMS

PANTHERS: Simon Stead (guest), Emil Grondal, Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen, Tom Perry, Ulrich Ostergaard, Ashley Morris, Tom Stokes (guest).

BERWICK: Kevin Doolan, Rider replacement for Seb Alden, Theo Pijper, Matt Wethers, Thomas Jorgensen, Daniel Gappmaier, Liam Carr.