Panthers boss still has eyes on a play-off spot

Chris Harris out in front for Panthers in heat four against Redcar on Sunday.
Chris Harris out in front for Panthers in heat four against Redcar on Sunday.
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Team boss Carl Johnson refuses to accept that Panthers’ chances of making the SGB Championship play-offs are all but over.

The city team find themselves seven points off the top four ahead of a run of almost three weeks without a league fixture.

And, when they do return to action at title-chasers Edinburgh on August 11, it is to start a run of five successive away outings.

Despite a far from ideal set of circumstances, Johnson remains optimistic his men can make the cut for the end-of-season honours battle.

He said: “We will keep believing we can reach the play-offs until it is mathematically impossible for us to make it - and we’re certainly not in that position at the moment.

“We’ve come through a very tough run of fixtures against Redcar this month with some excellent results and we’ve only lost two of our last nine meetings.

“That’s decent form and we’re confident there is still even better to come once we can get everyone firing at the same time.

“That’s not something which has really happened all season, but I feel we’re in a position now where have strong points coming from one to seven.

“When we do all click, we will blow teams away and that was evident for part of the meeting last Sunday against Redcar. We were superb in the opening few races to build up a 19-point lead.

“Of course it’s not ideal to now have almost three weeks without a league meeting, but it means the boys will be fresh for a big push during the rest of the season.

“We’re going to need to pick up results on the road to get ourselves up into the top four and we’ll have plenty of opportunities to do that in August.

“We just have to hope the doubling-up system doesn’t hurt us too much during such a busy run.”

Panthers only have second-claim to three of their riders - number one Jack Holder, GB star Chris Harris and New Zealand champion Bradley Wilson-Dean - who also race in the SGB Premiership. Holder could also miss September meetings due to his World Under 21 Championship commitments.

Panthers face a race against time to complete their SGB Championship fixtures. The cut-off date for results to count towards the play-offs is currently September 18.

Panthers still have to agree dates for six of their remaining 14 meetings - home clashes against Edinburgh, Workington and Scunthorpe, and away meetings at Glasgow and Workington (twice).

CONFIRMED PANTHERS FIXTURES

August

Fri 11 v Edinburgh (A)

Sat 12 v Berwick (A)

Sun 13 v Newcastle (A)

Sun 20 v Scunthorpe (A)

Thu 24 v Ipswich (A)

Wed 30 v NEWCASTLE (H)

September

Sat 2 v Workington (A)

Sun 3 v GLASGOW (H)

Sun 10 v WORKINGTON (H)

Sun 22 v Scunthorpe (A) - KO Cup