Peterborough Panthers’ hopes of reaching the Elite League KO Cup final are hanging by a thread following a late collapse tonight (October 24).
The injury-plagued city side, featuring three guests and only three of their regular riders, went down 51-39 at Poole in the first leg of a semi-final clash.
Panthers pushed their hosts hard until being on the receiving end of two 5-1s and a 4-2 in the final four races at Wimborne Road. They were also unable to cash in a man-on-man match race (this competition’s alternative to a tactical ride) when guest Scott Nicholls was beaten by world champion Chris Holder.
But it was their borrowed riders who led the charge with King’s Lynn man Mads Korneliussen (11) and Coventry ace Nicholls (10) shouldering the points-scoring burden.
Fellow guest Rene Bach also contributed a valuable 6+1 during an eventful personal night which featured crashes, retirements and twice having to start off a 15-metre handicap but ended with a super heat 14 success.
But the display of World Under 21 Championship leader Michael Jepsen Jensen was described as ‘hugely disappointing’ by team boss Jan Staechmann. The Danish talent managed just 3+1 from his opening two rides before suffering a tapes exclusion and running two last places.
The vast majority of the top-heavy Pirates’ points unsurprisingly came from their big-guns.
Krzysztof Kasprzak dropped only one point to an opponent (a heat five defeat at the hands of Nicholls) when racking up 16+1 while Holder accrued a 14+1 paid maximum. Guest Niels Kristian Iversen, a locally-based Panthers asset, added another 10.
Panthers must now wipe out that 12-point deficit in the second leg at the East of England Showground tomorrow night (October 25) if they are to advance to a final date against Coventry.
Staechmann said: “We had our fair share of problems but we stuck with Poole very well until things fell apart in the final few races.
“We are disappointed to find ourselves 12 points down but we are not about to give up on reaching the final.
“We are well aware that it will be a stiff task but we will give it out all at the Showground.”
Panthers have drafted in club legend Hans Andersen to spearhead their bid for a place in the final.
Andersen guests at number one in the second leg and should arrive in buoyant mood after lifting the Elite League title for the second time in his career earlier this week.
Andersen skippered Swindon, where he has spent this year on loan after being overlooked for a place in the Panthers team, to victory over Poole in a Grand Final completed on Monday.
The popular Dane was also the last Peterborough rider to lift a trophy when leading the city club to the title in 2006 and the Elite Shield at the start of the following season.
Panthers again use Korneliusen and Bach as guests while this time operating the rider replacement facility to cover the absence of Ryan Sullivan rather than Buczkowski.
The winners will face Coventry in the final. The Bees stage the first leg of the showpiece on Friday (October 26).
Poole: Krzysztof Kasprzak 16+1, Chris Holder 14+1, Niels Kristian Iversen (guest) 10, Ludvig Lindgren 6, Linus Eklof 4+1, Ricky Kling 1, rider replacement for Piotr Pawlicki.
Panthers: Mads Korneliussen (guest) 11, Scott Nicholls (guest) 10, Norbert Kosciuch 6+2, Rene Bach (guest) 6+1, Michael Jepsen Jensen 3+1, Jason Bunyan 3, rider replacement for Krzysztof Buczkowski.
Panthers: Hans Andersen (guest), Norbert Kosciuch, Mads Korneliussen (guest), Rider replacement for Ryan Sullivan, Michael Jepsen Jensen, Richard Lawson, Rene Bach (guest).
Poole: Niels Kristian Iversen (guest), Rider replacement for Piotr Pawlicki, Chris Holder, Ricky Kling, Krzysztof Kasprzak, Sam Masters, Kyle Howarth.
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