PANTHERS PREVIEW: Sheffield Tigers to win the title with Panthers finishing fourth

Ulrich Ostergaard out in front against Coventry. Picture: David Lowndes

Ulrich Ostergaard out in front against Coventry. Picture: David Lowndes

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Peterborough Telegraph speedway correspondent Mark Plummer looks at the runners and riders for the new SGB Championship season and tries to pick a winner.

BERWICK BANDITS

Panthers new Danish rider Kenneth Hansen.

Panthers new Danish rider Kenneth Hansen.

Lewis Bridger 8.52

Kevin Doolan 6.99

Dimitri Berge 6.91

Claus Vissing 6.80

Liam Carr 4.81

Daniel Gappmaier 4.00

Ryan Blacklock 2.00

Team manager: Gary Havelock.

Track: Shielfield Park.

Plummer’s verdict: A new team boss in former world champion Gary Havelock and a new-look on track too. Lewis Bridger should be a fine capture for this level and spearheads a top order which will compare well with most, but Berwick’s shortcomings are likely to be at reserve. They’ll no doubt be useful at their big base, but it’s difficult to see them pocketing too many points on the road. Will more than likely end up closer to the bottom, than the top, of the table.

Plummer’s prediction: 8th.

EDINBURGH MONARCHS

Sam Masters 8.97

Ricky Wells 7.92

Erik Riss 6.85

Max Clegg 4.34

Mark Riss 4.00

Josh Pickering 4.00

Mitchell Davey 4.00

Team manager: Alex Harkess.

Track: Armadale Stadium.

Plummer’s verdict: The Monarchs were a dominant force at this level for several seasons, but they’re not likely to be mounting a challenge for honours this time around. There’s nothing wrong with their Aussie/American spearhead of Sam Masters and Ricky Wells, while Erik Riss has also developed into a smart rider during two seasons in the UK. But there are many question marks regarding the remainder of their septet and they look vulnerable.

Plummer’s prediction: 9th

GLASGOW TIGERS

Aaron Summers 8.57

Richie Worrall 8.49

Richard Lawson 8.22

Nike Lunna 4.90

Dan Bewley 4.00

Tom Perry 3.76

Jack Smith 2.00

Team manager: Stewart Dickson.

Track: Ashfield Stadium.

Plummer’s verdict: The top is strong and the bottom is long for big-spending Glasgow. There’s no denying the quality of main men Aaron Summers, Richie Worrall and Richard Lawson, but they could find themselves lacking in scoring support. The Tigers are asking a lot of teenage whizz Dan Bewley to perform in the main body of the team while Tom Perry looked to have lost all confidence by the time he was let go by Panthers towards the end of last season.

Plummer’s prediction: 5th

IPSWICH WITCHES

Danny King 9.57

Nico Covatti 7.49

Rory Schlein 7.17

Kyle Newman 6.31

Cameron Heeps 5.07

Connor Mountain 2.00

Danyon Hume 2.00

Team manager: Ritchie Hawkins.

Track: Foxhall Stadium.

Plummer’s verdict: Potentially the finest main body of any team in the second tier - undoubtedly the most inexperienced reserve combination. That means the pressure is on both parts of a Witches line-up of which much is expected. Led by the British champion, Danny King, they should make a strong challenge for top spot. Both young reserves – Connor Mountain and Danyon Hume - are tipped to be stars of the future, but they’ll need to contribute from the word ‘go’.

Plummer’s prediction: 2nd

NEWCASTLE DIAMONDS

Robert Lambert 8.92

Steve Worrall 8.47

Ludvig Lindgren 7.69

Lewis Rose 6.12

Ashley Morris 4.98

Connor Coles 2.00

Danny Phillips 2.00

Team manager: George English.

Track: Brough Park.

Plummer’s verdict: No doubting the Diamonds have plenty of muscle at the top of their team.

British stars Robert Lambert and Steven Worrall, and Swedish ace Ludvig Lindgren, form arguably the strongest trio of heat leaders on show in the SGB Championship, but it is difficult to see many points arriving from their second-strings and reserves – especially on the road.

Plummer’s prediction: 6th

PETERBOROUGH PANTHERS

Jack Holder 7.16

Ulrich Ostergaard 7.14

Kenneth Hansen 6.74

Paul Starke 6.62

Simon Lambert 5.25

Bradley Wilson-Dean 5.02

Tom Bacon 2.00

Team manager: Carl Johnson.

Track: East of England Showground.

Plummer’s verdict: Panthers bosses have either got their winter team-building spot-on or spectacularly wrong. They’ve gone against the grain of the majority by intentionally assembling a side with strength in depth rather than top-end might.

They should always boast a strong reserve in either Bradley Wilson-Dean or Simon Lambert. It’s a strategy which may prove seriously smart, but it comes with risks attached. Should make the play-offs.

Plummer’s prediction: 4th

REDCAR BEARS

Jason Garrity 8.55

Ben Barker 7.91

Charles Wright 6.59

Jonas B. Andersen 6.30

Tobias Busch 4.66

Richard Hall 3.53

Ellis Perks 2.38

Team manager: Jitendra Duffill.

Track: Media Prima Arena.

Plummer’s verdict: There are very few seats at Redcar, but they’re unlikely to be needed anyway in 2017. The Bears have built their strongest teams for years and there’s unlikely to be a dull moment given the presence of thrillers Garrity and Barker while Charles Wright is another fine addition. But much will depend on the form of one-time Panthers title-winner Richard Hall at reserve. If he can return to the levels of yesteryear, they are serious surprise packages.

Plummer’s prediction: 3rd.

SCUNTHORPE SCORPIONS

Ryan Douglas 7.18

Josh Auty 7.01

Michael Palm-Toft 6.98

Carl Wilkinson 6.12

Lewis Kerr 5.98

Fritz Wallner 4.00

Josh Bailey 2.05

Team manager: Dave Peet.

Track: Eddie Wright Raceway.

Plummer’s verdict: A speedway rarity here as Scunthorpe go into battle with the same team that finished last season. They are in the same boat as Panthers in that any top-end weaknesses should be offset by the presence of a strong reserve – although it is difficult to see Fritz Wallner being in the class of Simon Lambert or Bradley Wilson-Dean.

This septet performed well in the closing weeks 2016 and should at least be competitive.

Plummer’s prediction: 7th

SHEFFIELD TIGERS

Josh Grajczonek 8.90

Kyle Howarth 7.18

Lasse Bjerre 6.64

Todd Kurtz 5.76

Josh Bates 5.02

Rob Branford 4.60

Jack Parkinson-Blackburn 2.00

Team manager: Simon Stead.

Track: Owlerton Stadium.

Plummer’s verdict: A fine number one in winter recruit Josh Grajczonek (a man who led Somerset to a double at this level last season), a middle-order which oozes strength, and a reserve of some repute in Rob Branford. Oh, and throw in a high-class former rider taking over as team manager and it all adds up to a winning recipe. They’ll be typically strong around their sweeping bends, and look formidable opponents on the road too.

Plummer’s prediction: 1st

WORKINGTON COMETS

Craig Cook 9.83

Thomas Jorgensen 7.45

Ty Proctor 6.68

Adam Roynon 5.12

Mason Campton 4.67

Matt Williamson 3.67

Rob Shuttleworth 2.00

Team manager: Tony Jackson.

Track: Derwent Park.

Plummer’s verdict: Craig Cook is the best rider in the Championship according to averages and many opinions, but he couldn’t carry a misfiring Panthers side to success last season. He’ll have an even bigger challenge dragging this team into play-off contention although the erratic Thomas Jorgensen can be handy and Ty Proctor will be desperate to impress on his return to British speedway. A long tail but they are likely to be battling to avoid the wooden spoon.

Plummer’s prediction: 10th