Panthers reserves may well be key to success

Ulrich Ostergaard in action for Panthers in the Premier League Fours Final. Picture: David Lowndes

Ulrich Ostergaard in action for Panthers in the Premier League Fours Final. Picture: David Lowndes

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Panthers have been handed the challenge of climbing out of their slump by ending two 100 per cent home records in the space of four days.

The city team, who have lost four of their last five meetings in all competitions, travel to Sheffield tonight (Thursday, 7.30pm) and then go to Workington on Sunday (7.30pm) in the Premier League.

The Tigers, who like Panthers currently sit in a play-off berth, have won all six of their Owlerton league outings so far this season while the Comets, who are languishing in ninth spot, have racked up a five-meeting hot streak at Derwent Park.

But Panthers’ need for points is great as they battle to remain in the top six for the second successive season and promoter Ged Rathbone believes the contributions of their reserve duo – short-term signing Ash Morris and Czech talent Zdenek Holub – will be crucial in both meetings.

He said: “Craig Cook normally flies round Sheffield and Ulrich Ostergaard won the Premier League Riders’ Championship there last season.

“It’s also a place that suits some of our other boys, including the two reserves. Ash and Zdenek both like the bigger tracks and their performances may well be crucial.

“We’re going to Owlerton tonight with the minimum target of picking up a point, but I think it will be a tight meeting and hopefully we can snatch a win.

“Workington is another really tough place to go, but we also have riders who can perform there.

“Craig is normally untouchable there and Ulrich usually picks up plenty of points after riding for Workington in the past.

“It will be similar to Sheffield in that points at reserve could be a major factor on the overall outcome, and hopefully we can get the points we need in that area.

“Ash has ridden for Workington and it is just the sort of big track that Zdenek should be used to from riding on the continent.

“It is another place where we are capable of getting a result and we’ve got to ensure we pick up something again to keep ourselves in the hunt for play-off places.

“We’re always looking over our shoulders and we don’t want to see the chasing teams getting closer to us.

“We’ve got to knuckle down, stick together and ensure all the riders perform to the levels they should individually. If that happens we’ll get results.”

Sheffield has been one of Panthers’ happier hunting grounds since their return to the Premier League. They drew a league fixture there last season and again shared the spoils in a League Cup clash at the start of the current campaign. They also triumphed 46-44 in a play-off quarter-final in South Yorkshire last term.

They also boast winning form at Workington courtesy of a 2014 semi-final triumph in the League Cup, and they also picked up a consolation league point in Cumbria last summer.

Panthers are at full-strength for both meetings.

TEAMS

SHEFFIELD: Simon Stead, Dimitri Berge, Josh Bates, Rider replacement for Jason Garrity, Kyle Howarth, Arthur Sissis, Nathan Greaves.

WORKINGTON: Ricky Wells, Mason Campton, Kenneth Hansen, Rasmus Jensen, Claus Vissing, Adam Roynon, Matt Williamson.

PANTHERS: Craig Cook, Tom Perry, Ulrich Ostergaard, Emil Grondal, Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen, Ashley Morris, Zdenek Holub.