He ripped up the team. He ripped up the track. But he couldn’t rip up the formbook.
Peterborough Panthers promoter Ged Rathbone cut a disconsolate, and almost speechless, figure after the city club’s calamitous slump continued last night (September 9).
His revamped septet went down to a seventh Alwalton defeat of the season as a Workington side, who hadn’t previously picked up an away success, triumphed 48-45.
If anything, the scoreline actually flattered Panthers given they were reliant on a tactical ride to drag themselves back into contention from being cast 12 points adrift after just four races.
Play-off form it most certainly is not and this latest setback – a sixth loss in their last eight meetings - led to them tumbling out of the top six for the first time all season.
Few would back them to climb back in either with only two meetings of the regular season to go – and one of them, away to Edinburgh, is not even arranged yet.
In a passionate address to supporters over the East of England Showground tannoy, Rathbone admitted: “I don’t really know what to say . . .
“All I can do is apologise to everyone who turned out to see us be beaten again.
“We have tried everything we could to put a new team out and it hasn’t worked for us. Our home form has been nothing short of embarrassing.
“Our fate is now out of our hands and we have made the season so hard for ourselves.
“I need to watch what I say because I will end up landing myself in trouble.”
The new-look Panthers – featuring former World Championship leader Kenneth Bjerre and 2006 Elite League title hero Richard Hall - got off to the worst possible start as back-to-back 5-1s from Workington were sandwiched by 4-2s in the opening four races.
It was the sort of mountain that Sir Edmund Hillary would have struggled to scale, let alone a team regularly struggling on their own shale where only 16 of their 35 league points have been earned.
They did eventually reduce their arrears to three points thanks to a 5-1 from star duo Bjerre and Craig Cook in heat 13, but any hopes of a fairytale fightback were ended when Rasmus Jensen inspired a Workington 4-2 in the penultimate race.
Bjerre’s first Panthers appearance since 2013 – and his first Premier League outing since 2003 – produced a double-figures score.
He was beaten by former Peterborough rider Claus Vissing in his opening ride but then reeled off three successive victories before taking third in the finale when all hope of success had already been lost.
His dozen made him the second-highest Panthers scorer behind number one Craig Cook, who’s 16+1 haul was boosted by his successful double-points mission in heat six.
Anders Thomsen also delivered a couple of race victories on his way to nine points, but the remaining four members of the side could manage only eight points between them.
Skipper Ulrich Ostergaard provided half of those as he continued a disappointing run of form while the returning Richard Hall showed glimpses of his old Showground excitement with three points.
His best ride came in heat eight when he snatched second spot from Comets man Mason Campton during a dash to the finish line after almost pulling off a third-to-first swoop earlier in the race.
But Panthers could only manage one point at reserve courtesy of guest Jake Knight’s third place when on the receiving end of a 5-1 in heat two.
His other two outings, and all five of Danny Halsey’s appearances on track, ended in disappointment.
They certainly felt the loss of Czech racer Zdenek Holub, who was absent due to preparing for the European Under 21 Final in France tomorrow night.
The club did not announce his unavailability until less than an hour before the start of the meeting with him having been expected to line up.
Rathbone added: “Zdenek pulling out late on was a big blow as he could have scored a few points down at reserve, but he felt he had to change his plans to travel to his European meeting.”
Holub is due to return on Monday when Panthers entertain Rye House in their final home meeting of the regular season (7.30pm), but they’re without Cook against the Rockets. Lasse Bjerre, younger brother of Kenneth, has been called in to guest.
Panthers now sit seventh in the Premier League standings, two points outside the play-off zone.
PANTHERS: Craig Cook 16+1, Kenneth Bjerre 12, Anders Thomsen 9, Ulrich Ostergaard 4, Richard Hall 3, Jake Knight (guest) 1, Danny Halsey 0.
WORKINGTON: Kenneth Hansen 11+1, Rasmus Jensen 8+2, Matt Williamson 8+1, Ricky Wells 8, Claus Vissing 7, Mason Campton 3+1, Adam Roynon 3.