All good things come to an end - and that was the case for patched-up Panthers last night (April 24)
The city team were brought back down to earth following a five-meeting winning streak when being beaten 53-40 at Somerset in their final Premier League Cup Southern Group outing.
They had arrived at the Oaktree Arena with the faintest of hopes of making progress to the latter stage, but it quickly became apparent a victory by more than seven points on the night to secure all four available league points was not a realistic proposition.
They must now settle for a fourth-placed finish in the five-team Southern Group although it wasn’t a night without positives though as two guest riders delivered impressive displays.
Claus Vissing, borrowed from Berwick, shone for the second successive night with a 13+1 haul boosted by a successful tactical ride while number one stand-in Kenneth Hansen of Workington racked up double figures in his first-ever visit to the Somerset track.
The Danish duo, who were both permanent members of the Panthers team back in 2009, won five races between them and inspired both of the visitors’ heat advantages.
They didn’t receive much in the way of strong support though with their other guest, Nico Covatti, enduring a nightmare after being recruited on the day of the meeting.
The Argentinian picked up a costly exclusion in heat 10 when returning to the pits following an unsatisfactory start and gained his only points with a second place in heat 14.
It was a disappointing return for a rider who had piled up 14 points for his own club, Ipswich, at the same venue the previous week, but two out of three is not bad for those responsible for hiring Panthers’ guests.
Team boss Carl Johnson admitted: “We weren’t good enough as a team on the night and I’ve got no complaints about the result.
“It is difficult to go into any meetings with three guests. Claus and Kenneth were the stars, but Nico was disappointing.
“I feel sure it was the right thing to do though after he had done well there last week, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.
“Somerset is a very tough place to go and there are plenty of hammerings there during a season. This certainly wasn’t one of them, but it was always going to be a tough ask to get the win we needed there.
“It’s a shame to go out at the group stage, but we’ve been up against it due to losing our first three meetings.
“Had we got points at home to Somerset and Rye House it may well have been a different story.”
Panthers are back in action tomorrow (April 26) when they entertain Rye House at the East of England Showground in the Premier League (5pm).
Richard Lawson slots back into the number one berth while Brady Kurtz, paid for 13 points against Panthers for his regular club Somerset last night, takes over in the middle order with Robert Lambert again missing.
SOMERSET: Brady Kurtz 12+1, Josh Grajczonek 11+2, Richie Worrall 8, Charles Wright 7+1, Leigh Lanham 6+2, Paul Starke 5+1, Dan Greenwood (guest) 4
PANTHERS: Claus Vissing (guest) 13+1, Kenneth Hansen (guest) 10, Ulrich Ostergaard 6, Simon Lambert 5+1, Michael Palm Toft 3+1, Nico Covatti (guest) 2, Ollie Greenwood 1+1.