Promoter Ged Rathbone failed to hide his fury after Peterborough Panthers’ unbeaten record was ruined last night (June 12).
A depleted city side were masters of their own downfall when being pipped 46-44 by Ipswich in the tightest of East Anglian derby duels at the East of England Showground.
Rathbone branded the defeat as ‘embarrassing’ after his men threw away an eight-point lead amassed during the opening three heats.
It certainly wasn’t the way they wanted to mark the 45th anniversary of the club’s first-ever home meeting in 1970.
To make matters worse for Panthers, the winner-takes-all final heat was won by Ipswich skipper Danny King.
He was one of two Witches men to dash back to the UK after lining up in the Speedway World Cup Race-Off in Denmark 24 hours earlier whereas Panthers’ own representative in that meeting, Robert Lambert, did not return.
His absence undoubtedly cost the city team on a night when they were also without the injured Lewis Blackbird and had two riders – Michael Palm Toft and Simon Lambert – struggling with mechanical issues.
Angry Rathbone rapped: “It was quite embarrassing in all honesty. We had the riders in the changing room after the meeting and we pulled absolutely no punches.
“We didn’t lose this meeting. We gave it away after being eight points up at one point and it is completely unacceptable.
“The riders have been made aware of that and ordered to ensure it does not happen again.
“It was one of those nights where everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.
“Michael had problems with a bike that he has been flying around the Showground on and Simon has had clutch issues for most of the night.
“We’ve sorted those problems after the meeting, but these things should be done in the workshop beforehand as they are professional sportsmen.
“It is a difficult situation concerning Robert. Everyone is well aware that Danny and Gino Manzares both made it back from the same meeting in time to ride for Ipswich.
“They were in a slightly different position as they had bikes in the UK to return to whereas Robert’s bikes were with him in Denmark.
“He could have made it back, but it would have been a tight schedule and any problems could have meant he missed it.
“We have to accept that Robert has been riding for his country which is a huge honour for both him and the club, but on reflection we have missed him massively.
“It is something we need to address as we have to put Peterborough first and be better organised with logistics of getting riders and bikes to meetings.”
Frequent guest Brady Kurtz and captain Ulrich Ostergaard – riding despite ankle ligament damage - led Panthers’ challenge with double-figures hauls while Lambert piled up seven points in the opening three races of the meeting before the bike gremlins hit.
The hosts slammed in 4-2s either side of a second heat maximum from Lambert and fellow reserve Ollie Greenwood during their electric start.
There was a hint of good fortune in heat three as guest Matej Kus was excluded under two minutes after foolishly riding over a spare set of starting tapes on his way to the start and getting them tangled in his machine.
Lambert was sent out in his place and collected a second successive race win while Palm Toft and Ipswich man Nico Covatti both had mechanical trouble when battling over third place with the Panthers man managing to nurse his machine round to the finish.
Palm Toft had no such luck in heat five when his retirement left King and Manzares free to claim the first of two 5-1s in the space of three races to haul Ipswich level.
The visitors then edged narrowly ahead on a couple of occasions before a terrific 5-1 from big-guns Kurtz and Ostergaard in heat 13 swung the pendulum back Panthers’ way and left them two points to the good.
The visitors responded immediately as Covatti and Stefan Nielsen held a 5-1 for the majority of the penultimate race until Palm Toft forced his way past the latter on the final lap to reduce their advantage to a 4-2.
That left the teams level going into a winner-takes-all finale and it was the Witches who emerged with the points as King hit the front on an action-packed opening lap with partner Rohan Tungate managing to keep Ostergaard at the rear.
Panthers don’t have to wait long for an opportunity to right the wrongs of this reverse. They travel to Newcastle tomorrow (Sunday, June 14) and Rathbone insists his riders are well aware of what he expects from them.
He added: “We have made it quite clear to the lads that nothing but a four-point win at Newcastle is acceptable.
“We don’t mind being beaten by a better team, but we cannot gift results to opponents like we did last night.”
PANTHERS: Brady Kurtz (guest) 13, Ulrich Ostergaard 11+1, Lambert 7, Michael Palm Toft 6, Matej Kus (guest) 5+1, Ollie Greenwood 2+1, Rider replacement for Robert Lambert.
IPSWICH: Danny King 12, Rohan Tungate 11, Stefan Nielsen 7+1, Nico Covatti 7+1, Gino Manzares 6+2, Ritchie Hawkins 3+1.