REPORT: Defeated, disappointed, disgusted, a summary of Panthers’ mood

Action from heat two involving Tom Bacon (blue helmet) and Liam Carr (red) for Panthers against Sheffield. Photo: David Lowndes.
Action from heat two involving Tom Bacon (blue helmet) and Liam Carr (red) for Panthers against Sheffield. Photo: David Lowndes.

Defeated – that was Peterborough Panthers after a third home loss of the SGB Championship season last night (July 14).

Disappointed – that was the vast majority of those making up another excellent East of England Arena turnout as the city side went down 50-40 to Sheffield.

Heat four from Panthers v Sheffield with Chris Harris (red helmet) and Tom Bacon (blue) riding for the home side. Photo: David Lowndes.

Heat four from Panthers v Sheffield with Chris Harris (red helmet) and Tom Bacon (blue) riding for the home side. Photo: David Lowndes.

Disgusted – that was Panthers promoter Ged Rathbone after recent events which he admits have left him questioning his passion for this particular sport.

It’s been a rough few days for Rathbone and his club. There was the farce of last weekend when they were left without a number one for their loss at Glasgow when guest Ben Barker cried off ‘ill’ only to be seen practising at another venue later the same day.

The sport’s governing body has chosen to take no further action against a rider who will race against Panthers three times in the coming days.

Then, almost as if to rub salt into the wounds, Rathbone’s side were on the receiving end of another key performance from a regular guesting foe.

Panthers' Chris Harris leads team-mate Tom Bacon in heat four of the meeting with Sheffield. Photo: David Lowndes.

Panthers' Chris Harris leads team-mate Tom Bacon in heat four of the meeting with Sheffield. Photo: David Lowndes.

Sheffield drafted in reserve James Shanes and he produced a paid 13-point haul which was effectively a match-winning display.

Despite not riding regularly in the second tier, Shanes has now been involved in all three of Panthers’ home defeats this year.

The youngster, who races in the top flight for Poole, also stepped in for Sheffield when they won at Alwalton last month with a 6+1 haul after scoring eight for Newcastle in their May success in the city.

And the frustration intensified as Panthers’ own guest Kevin Doolan, who was booked after scoring 9+1 and 11+1 when representing regular club Berwick here in recent weeks, managed only one on this occasion.

Even that was gift-wrapped when heat eight was completed at the third attempt due to both Panthers reserves – Tom Bacon and Liam Carr – ploughing into the tapes at the start.

Oh, and to top it all off, the man Doolan was replacing – Bradley Wilson-Dean – scored a paid maximum for his SGB Premiership side Swindon . . . while using an engine bought for him by Rathbone.

Even though Swindon signed the New Zealand champion weeks after Panthers did, they get priority over his services in the event of a fixture clash. And there have been quite a few of those.

You really couldn’t make this up. It’s almost as if speedway is trying to secure a slot on the Jeremy Kyle Show.

“I’m sure people can appreciate why I’m fast losing my love for speedway,” said Rathbone. “I’m sick of rules being broken and it being ignored.

“Ben told me on Thursday night, when I saw him at Redcar, that he stitched us up. We have to deal with things like that going unpunished in a professional sport.

“And then we are beaten at home on a night when we are without one of our riders who is scoring a paid maximum in another league – on an engine we just got him.

“The situation with Swindon having priority on Bradley is not right. They only came in for him long after we signed him, and when they messed up their original team, but we have to live with him missing important meetings for us.

“One thing I can’t have any complaints about is the result. Sheffield were much the better team on the night and ran out deserving winners.

“It’s a horrible feeling to lose at home and it is happening far too often again this year. The supporters turned out in big numbers again, but we didn’t give them the performance or result they deserved.”

Rathbone is not wrong. His team were second-best all night with only Great Britain international Chris Harris offering any real resistance.

He inspired Panthers’ only advantage of the meeting when taking the chequered flag in a 4-2 in heat four – an effort which halved their arrears after being on the receiving end of a 5-1 in the opener.

But Sheffield led from start to finish with their success eventually being sewn up in a shared heat 13 when their number one, Josh Grajczonek, took one of his four victories.

Harris’ hopes of a maximum were ended in that race after he had previously claimed the scalp in heat 11 to complete a hat-trick of wins.

Jack Holder, who was a little below par in his first meeting back at number one, Paul Starke and skipper Ulrich Ostergaard were the other Panthers riders to win races, but it was not enough to prevent Sheffield from leaving with all four available league points.

It was an effort which lifted them into the final play-off spot. Panthers now find themselves cast a dozen points adrift of that position.

They can eat into it when attempting to return to winning ways at Workington tonight (July 15, 7pm) before hosting Barker and his Redcar outfit tomorrow (July 16, 5pm).

SCORES

PANTHERS: Chris Harris 12+1, Ulrich Ostergaard 8+1, Jack Holder 8, Paul Starke 7+2, Tom Bacon 3, Liam Carr 1+1, Kevin Doolan (guest) 1.

SHEFFIELD: Josh Grajczonek 14, James Shanes (guest) 10+3, Lasse Bjerre 10, Kyle Howarth 8, Todd Kurtz 7+3, Josh Bates 1+1 (withdrawn), Georgie Wood (guest) 0.

HEATS

1 - Grajczonek (60.6), Kurtz, Holder, Doolan. 1-5, 1-5.

2 - Shanes (61.4), Bacon, Carr, Wood. 3-3, 4-8.

3 - Bjerre (60.6), Ostergaard, Starke, Bates (ret). 3-3, 7-11.

4 - Harris (60.8), Howarth, Bacon, Wood. 4-2, 11-13.

5 - Grajczonek (60.7), Ostergaard, Starke, Kurtz. 3-3, 14-16.

6 - Howarth (61.0), Holder, Shanes, Doolan. 2-4, 16-20.

7 - Harris (60.9), Bjerre, Bates, Carr. 3-3, 19-23.

8 - re-run x2 Shanes (62.2), Kurtz, Doolan, Carr (15m). 1-5, 20-28.

9 - Howarth (61.8), Starke, Ostergaard, Wood. 3-3, 23-31.

10 - Holder (61.5), Bjerre, Shanes, Doolan. 3-3, 26-34.

11 - Harris (62.4), Grajczonek, Kurtz, Bacon. 3-3, 29-37.

12 - Starke (62.3), Bjerre, Shanes, Bacon. 3-3, 32-40.

13 - Grajczonek (62.1), Holder, Harris, Howarth. 3-3, 35-43.

14 - Ostergaard (62.6), Kurtz, Shanes, Bacon. 3-3, 38-46.

15 - Grajczonek (62.0), Harris, Bjerre, Holder. 2-4, 40-50.