Peterborough Panthers delivered another pleasing away performance last night (July 31) . . . but assistant team manager Carl Johnson admitted it should have been even better.
The city racers edged closer to clinching a place in the Premier League play-offs when collecting a consolation point from a 47-43 loss at Workington.
But Johnson, in charge with Jason Attwood, was quick to accept that victory was within reach on a night when they trailed from an early stage, but always remained on the coat-tails of a Comets side who boast a 100 per cent home record.
Panthers fell to a maximum of 10 points adrift after eight heats, but clawed their way back into contention despite shunning the use of a tactical ride for double points.
A 5-1 from Emil Grondal and impressive reserve Ashley Morris in the penultimate race left them just two points down going into a last heat decider and ensured they collected a league point.
But previously unbeaten number one Craig Cook and captain Ulrich Ostergaard couldn’t provide the advantage required to earn either a draw or victory when on the receiving end of a 4-2 from the hosts.
Johnson said: “It was another good performance and result on the road against a team who are very strong on their own track.
“We could, and probably should, have got more than one league point, but we were carrying a couple of passengers and that’s not something we can afford to do.
“Two riders failed to score from six rides between them and that was the difference between a decent point and another great win to follow up the one at Sheffield last Thursday (July 28).
“A victory at Workington would realistically have sealed our place in the play-offs in my opinion, but the point edges us a bit closer to doing that.”
Reserve Zdenek Holub and second string Tom Perry were the two riders to fail to trouble the scorers at Derwent Park, but Panthers did have good performances in other areas on a night when World Cup hero Cook spearheaded their charge just 24 hours after helping Great Britain to silver medals.
The Cumbrian charger reeled off four successive victories back at his local, and first, club before seeing his maximum hopes ended by Workington number one Ricky Wells in the finale.
Cook’s 14-point haul was well backed up by skipper Ostergaard as he accumulated 11 points before bringing up the rear in the last race.
Reserve Ash Morris, second string Emil Grondal and heat leader Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen all claimed a race win apiece although the latter’s six points was slightly less than Panthers really require with their line-up now so reliant on top-end power.
In fact Busk Jakobsen’s success in a shared heat nine was clearly unexpected by the club’s management as they chose not to deploy him on a tactical ride even though Panthers were 10 points down. They also snubbed the opportunity to give it to captain Ostergaard in the following race when his success inspired a 4-2 to launch their fightback.
Johnson explained: “We chose not to use the tactical ride in heat nine as Nikolaj had not looked quick up to that point, and we opted against it again in heat 10 due to the strength of the opposition Ulrich was up against.
“The plan was to send ‘Cookie’ out for double-points in heat 11, but Ulrich and Emil gained a 4-2 in heat 10 which meant it wasn’t then possible.
“Hindsight is always a wonderful thing and we should probably have used it in one of the two races we chose not to. That’s something we’ll bear in mind for the future.
“But the positive is that we kept ourselves in the meeting without using the tactical ride and that was pleasing. In all honesty we should need one if all seven riders are performing to their potential.”
Panthers now sit third in the Premier League table and are back in action on Friday (August 5) when they travel to unbeaten title favourites Somerset.
The Rebels have won all 11 league meetings to date to rise to the top of the standings despite having a stack of meetings in hand on their rivals. They also dumped Panthers out of the KO Cup at the quarter-final stage.
WORKINGTON: Ricky Wells 12, Kenneth Hansen 9+1, Claus Vissing 8+1, Mason Campton 6+2, Matt Williamson 6+2, Rasmus Jensen 5+1, Ryan Blacklock (guest) 1+1.
PANTHERS: Craig Cook 14, Ulrich Ostergaard 11, Ashley Morris 7+1, Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen 6, Emil Grondal 5, Tom Perry 0, Zdenek Holub 0.