Peterborough Panthers returned to form last night (September 7) with what Carl Johnson dubbed as being one of their most important victories of the season.
It might seem a bizarre statement to describe a 52-41 triumph at Rye House in their final away outing of the Premier League regular season in such a way given the city club have long since been assured of a play-off spot.
But Johnson insists their eighth road-win of the campaign was absolutely vital as his riders snapped a three-meeting losing run which threatened to send a promising campaign hurtling off the rails.
“We simply had to win at Rye House,” stressed Johnson after seeing reserve Emil Grondal headline a fine all-round team display with paid 16 in his first-ever visit to the Hertfordshire track.
“We could not afford to fall to a fourth successive defeat at such an important stage of the season.
“It would have been difficult to pick the riders up and get them back into the right frame of mind for the play-offs had that happened.
“But it never looked like being the case as they were terrific from start to finish. We got our noses in front in heat two and never looked back from there.
“It is right up there with our best performances of the season and it is definitely one of the most important results.
“While we have sometimes been disappointing at home, our away form has generally been excellent. Eight wins on the road is no mean feat and hopefully we can add two or three in the play-offs!”
World Under 21 finalist Grondal could be a key performer at reserve if this performance is anything to go by.
He reeled off a hat-trick of heat wins during a prolific seven-ride shift described as ‘nothing short of outstanding’ by Johnson.
The Dane was joined in double-figures by two of his team-mates. Countryman Anders Thomsen continued an impressive start to his Panthers career with paid 13 while Ben Barker reached 10 points after denying Rockets number one Eddie Kennett a maximum in the finale.
Kennett had won his previous four races including a tactical ride in heat six which reduced Panthers’ lead to seven points.
But it quickly grew back into double-figures as they kept a depleted home side – featuring Robert Lambert, who was axed by Panthers last month - at bay to wrap up victory with three races to spare.
Panthers remain fifth in the Premier League standings ahead of their final meeting of the regular season on Sunday (September 13) when they entertain Scunthorpe at the East of England Showground (3pm).
A play-off quarter-final showdown against fourth-placed Sheffield is almost certain.
RYE HOUSE 41: Edward Kennett 17, Robert Lambert 9+1, Nikolaj Jakobsen 8, Kasper Lykke 6+1, Dan Greenwood 1, Marc Owen (guest) 0, Rider replacement for Luke Bowen.
PANTHERS 52: Emil Grondal 15+1, Anders Thomsen 11+2, Ben Barker 10, Michael Palm Toft 7+2, Ulrich Ostergaard 6+1, Rafal Konopka 3+2, Rider replacement for Simon Lambert.