MEETING REPORT: Jack’s the lad again in thrilling victory

Josh Grajczonek leads Panthers team-mate Bradley Wilson-Dean into the firts corner of heat six against Ipswich. Photo: David Lowndes.
Josh Grajczonek leads Panthers team-mate Bradley Wilson-Dean into the firts corner of heat six against Ipswich. Photo: David Lowndes.
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East Anglian derbies at the East of England Arena are following a familiar script this season – and Peterborough Panthers won’t mind that.

Back on Easter Monday the city side survived a crucial final race thanks to a brilliant ride from Jack Holder to snatch a narrow 46-44 success against Ipswich.

Panthers star Jack Holder blazes a trail in heat four against Ipswich.

Panthers star Jack Holder blazes a trail in heat four against Ipswich.

Turn the clock forward two-and-a-half months to yesterday (July 2) and there was a very similar conclusion to an almost identical storyline as Panthers triumphed 48-42 against the Witches in a contest which was engrossing and pulsating in equal measure.

And, yet again, that man Holder was the leading light as he went unbeaten by an opponent for the third time in his last six home meetings.

His 14+1 paid maximum was completed when he followed in guest number one Josh Grajczonek for a 5-1 in the finale to delight the vast majority of those making up what looked to be the biggest Alwalton attendance of 2017.

If Holder’s brilliance doesn’t put backsides on seats, nothing will. Plenty of his 80+1 points on home shale in the last few weeks have been scored with spectacular surges past rivals. Yesterday was no different with a third-to-first blast in heat seven a highlight.

Heat two action from Panthers v Ipswich involving home riders Paul Starke (red helmet) and Ulrich Ostergaard (blue). Photo: David Lowndes.

Heat two action from Panthers v Ipswich involving home riders Paul Starke (red helmet) and Ulrich Ostergaard (blue). Photo: David Lowndes.

The 21 year-old is a rider who should be enjoyed while he is here because performances like those he is regularly delivering at the moment suggest he’ll quickly climb onto bigger and better things.

The lucrative Ekstraliga of Poland, rather than the second tier of British speedway, will surely be his weekend destination in future years.

“Jack is in the form of his life,” said Panthers team boss Carl Johnson. “It is incredible for such a young rider to be able to produce a run of such consistently good performances.

“We knew in the winter that we were signing a rider with massive potential and we felt sure that riding our track on a regular basis would see him kick on after a couple of years on a tight circuit at Plymouth, but he is exceeding all of our expectations.

“He’s beating good riders by massive distances and he is someone I know I can rely on in the big races.”

That was certainly the case yesterday as Holder and fellow Australian star Josh Grajczonek arrived at the tapes for heat 15 with Panthers in possession of a two-point advantage and Ipswich already assured of at least a consolation point - just as in their previous April visit.

But there was no hint of taking the cautious approach to protect their slender edge as guest Grajczonek, who was borrowed for the day from Sheffield, blazed to the front with Holder emerging from a tight opening couple of bends in second place.

And with former British champion Danny King unable to make any inroads when left as the sole Ipswich representative by Rory Schlein’s retirement after those early scrimmages, it was a case of finishing the job in style for Panthers.

“We knew it would be tight again,” said Johnson. “But the vital thing was winning the meeting.

“The fact Ipswich have left here with a couple of points this season doesn’t really worry me. We need victories to get ourselves into play-off contention and we’ve had three of them in a row at home now.”

The final six-point margin was the biggest gap between the sides throughout a meeting in which Panthers twice trailed by four points.

The first instance was following an Ipswich 5-1 from King and Kyle Newman in the opener when Grajczonek retired.

A 4-2 inspired by skipper Ulrich Ostergaard in heat three halved that deficit, but he was the unable to prevent the same Witches duo from replying with one of their own in heat five.

But Grajczonek and Bradley Wilson-Dean roared to a 5-1 in heat six, when Schlein gave chase until tumbling out on the final bend, to restore parity.

Only two of the remaining nine races resulted in advantages and both belonged to Panthers.

They hit the front when Wilson-Dean powered clear to win heat eight and reserve Tom Bacon, who earlier produced a terrific ride to win a shared second race, secured a 4-2 courtesy of an unchallenged third place after an early Newman retirement.

And that two-point cushion remained until being trebled in the closing chapter, but the gap between Panthers and the play-off places actually increased yesterday despite their win.

That’s due to fourth-placed Redcar earning four league points for a comprehensive away success at strugglers Scunthorpe.

The city men do have two meetings in hand on the Bears and also travel to the North-East to face them on Thursday (July 6) in the first of four clashes between the two teams this month.

SCORES

PANTHERS: Jack Holder 14+1 (paid max), Josh Grajczonek (guest) 9, Ulrich Ostergaard 7+2, Bradley Wilson-Dean 6+1, Paul Starke 6, Tom Bacon 6, Liam Carr 0.

IPSWICH: Danny King 10+1, Justin Sedgmen 9, Rory Schlein 7, Connor Mountain 5+3, Cameron Heeps 4+2, Kyle Newman 4+2, Nathan Greaves 3.

HEATS

1 - King (59.6), Newman, Wilson-Dean, Grajczonek (ret). 1-5, 1-5.

2 - Bacon (62.1), Greaves, Mountain, Carr. 3-3, 4-8.

3 - re-run Ostergaard (60.4), Sedgmen, Starke, Heeps (15m). 4-2, 8-10.

4 - Holder (60.8), Schlein, Mountain, Bacon. 3-3, 11-13.

5 - King (60.3), Ostergaard, Newman, Starke. 2-4, 13-17.

6 - Grajczonek (60.8), Wilson-Dean, Greaves, Schlein (fell). 5-1, 18-18.

7 - re-run x2 Holder (62.0), Sedgmen, Heeps, Carr. 3-3, 21-21.

8 - Wilson-Dean (62.1), Mountain, Bacon, Newman (ret). 4-2, 25-23.

9 - Schlein (61.8), Starke, Ostergaard, Greaves. 3-3, 28-26.

10 - Grajczonek (62.2), Sedgmen, Heeps, Wilson-Dean. 3-3, 31-29.

11 - Holder (61.6), King, Newman, Carr. 3-3. 34-32.

12 - Starke (63.0), Heeps, Mountain, Bacon. 3-3, 37-35.

13 - Holder (62.1), Schlein, King, Grajczonek. 3-3, 40-38.

14 - re-run Sedgmen (63.0), Bacon, Ostergaard (15m), Mountain. 3-3, 43-41.

15 - Grajczonek (63.1), Holder, King, Schlein (ret). 5-1, 48-42.