SPEEDWAY: No home comforts for Panthers as they suffer a Rebel raid

Simon Lambert and Emil Grondal in heat 14 action for Panthers against Somerset Rebels. Photo: David Lowndes.
Simon Lambert and Emil Grondal in heat 14 action for Panthers against Somerset Rebels. Photo: David Lowndes.
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Peterborough Panthers are in danger of becoming one of a kind in speedway.

The city team can’t stop winning on the road, but suddenly appear unable to be successful at the East of England Showground.

Ulrich Ostergaard and Niklas Porsing are the Panthers men in heat 13 against Somerset Rebels. Photo: David Lowndes.

Ulrich Ostergaard and Niklas Porsing are the Panthers men in heat 13 against Somerset Rebels. Photo: David Lowndes.

An emphatic 53-37 Premier League loss at the hands of Somerset yesterday (April 24) was a second successive slip-up on their own shale (or lack of it, as the case may be).

They had also come unstuck against Sheffield just over a fortnight earlier in the League Cup competition - two meetings separated by three victories and a consolation point on their travels.

The latest loss was a hugely worrying one with Panthers only able to provide two race-winners and collect one heat advantage.

They were constantly out-gated, regularly out-thought and almost always outclassed, on a surface described as ‘patchy’, by a Somerset side who love their visits to the city. This was the Rebels’ fourth successive victory at Alwalton going back to 2014.

Ulrich Ostergaard racing for Panthers in heat 15 against Somerset Rebels. Photo: David Lowndes.

Ulrich Ostergaard racing for Panthers in heat 15 against Somerset Rebels. Photo: David Lowndes.

Temporary Panthers team boss Dale Allitt admitted: “Gating is crucial at any level of the sport. The riders with clear air in front of them can pick their lines and those in behind have to go looking for ways past on a track that is a little bit difficult.

“We’ve been hard in the first turn in the last two away meetings when starting the league season off with wins at Rye House and Redcar, but you can’t do that if you are already behind the opposition riders.

“Far too often we failed to make the starts and even when we did, we found ourselves getting bossed around on the second bend.

“We’re all disappointed by the performance and the result. The fact it comes after some fantastic results on the road makes it even more annoying.

“The track was not how we wanted it. That’s not an excuse, but it is a fact and we will be ordering new shale to try to address it.”

Despite Panthers’ poor showing, there was little between the teams in the opening two thirds of the contest.

Eight of those 10 races ended in deadlock with only a 5-1 from Somerset duo Jake Allen and Josh Grajczonek in heat five and a Simon Lambert-inspired 4-2 from Panthers in heat nine interrupting the flow of 3-3s.

In all truth, Panthers were fortunate not to find themselves much further behind given they were the beneficiaries of bike problems for Allen and a Zach Watjtknecht tumble respectively in the opening two races when looking like conceding 5-1s.

The Panthers riders were summoned to their dressing room during the interval when trailing by two points, but whatever was said behind the closed door certainly didn’t have the desired effect as they found themselves beaten within a matter of minutes.

Somerset slammed in back-to-back 5-1s to ease into a 10-point advantage before paid-maximum man Josh Grajczonek clinched victory by winning a shared heat 13. Paul Starke then masterminded a 4-2 for the visitors in the penultimate race to clinch all four available league points.

And, unfortunately for Panthers supporters who had parted with good money to view such ineptitude from their own team, the Rebels weren’t done there. Rohan Tungate picked himself up off the floor to roar to another 5-1 with Wright at his side in a re-run finale.

Panthers will again bid for redemption on the road when going to big-spending Glasgow on Sunday (May 1) ahead of a trip to the opposite end of the Premier League landscape at Plymouth on May 6.

They don’t ride at home again until May 8 when Sheffield return for a league clash.

Allitt added: “In an ideal world we would be back at the Showground next weekend trying to put things right, but we’ve got two very tough away fixtures before we race at home again.

“We bounced back from the home defeat against Sheffield with some fantastic efforts on the road and that will be the target again. No-one turns up to lose.”

SCORES

PANTHERS: Ulrich Ostergaard 9+1, Tom Perry 7+1, Simon Lambert 6, Nicklas Porsing 5+2, Emil Grondal 5+1, Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen 3+1, Michael Palm Toft 2+2.

SOMERSET: Josh Grajczonek 11+1, Charles Wright 10+2, Rohan Tungate 10, Bradley Wilson-Dean 8+1, Jake Allen 8+1, Paul Starke 6, Zach Wajtknecht 0.