Thrills, spills and social media abuse accompany vital victory

Panthers debutant Emil Grondal (right) in action against Redcar. Photo: David Lowndes.
Panthers debutant Emil Grondal (right) in action against Redcar. Photo: David Lowndes.
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This was just what the doctor – and the promoter, team manager and supporters for that matter – ordered from Peterborough Panthers.

A 51-41 success over strugglers Redcar at the East of England Showground yesterday marked a much-needed return to form on their home shale and allowed the city racers to move to within a couple of points of the top of the Premier League.

Captain Ulrich Ostergaard was in the thick of the action as he announced his arrival in the number one spot with a display containing quality and controversy.

Ostergaard starred in three 5-1s and produced a stunning ride in heat 13 when blasting from last to first through the narrowest of back-straight gaps.

And he was also caught up in a major heat 15 talking point involving current and past Panthers main men which left Lasse Bjerre on the deck.

The two Danes were involved in a no-holds-barred battle for second spot when Bjerre ran out of room leaving the second bend on lap three and came down heavily.

Referee Barbara Horley excluded Bjerre for being the cause of an incident which drew an angry reaction. Bjerre had presumably still not calmed down when delivering an abusive slur towards his former team-mate on social media after the meeting – an act which will more than likely leave him facing a fine from the authorities to go with a bill for bike repairs.

While Ostergaard moved to the top of the order in impressive fashion, teen talent Robert Lambert, fresh from a first taste of World Championship racing the previous evening, was back to his best with a top-scoring dozen points.

Lewis Blackbird and Michael Palm Toft added solid support from the second string roles while Simon Lambert was paid for nine points at reserve despite appearing to hit bike problems in the closing stages of a couple of his races.

But it was the two newcomers who were arguably most pleasing of all. World Under 21 finalist Emil Grondal showed plenty of signs of encouragement on his way to a paid six-point debut haul in his first-ever meeting in British speedway.

And reserve Rafal Konopka also put his first Panthers points on the board in his second meeting for the club. The Pole’s 3+1 proved valuable and showed he is capable of contributing from the bottom end of the side.

“I’m happy with a lot of what I saw,” said joint team boss Carl Johnson. “There were a lot of positives to take from the meeting.

“It was a fixture we knew we simply had to win and the riders gave the fans the performance I felt they were owed.

“Aside from two or three races, when our starting let us down and Redcar clawed their way back into contention, it was pleasing.”

In all truth Panthers’ success was not quite as comfortable as the final scoreline might suggest, but it was a day when getting over the line was essential.

Not only did they need to respond after a costly home slip-up seven days earlier against Plymouth, they also had to pocket points with a five-week wait now on the cards until their next home fixture. They face five away meetings in that time.

Panthers powered into a 12-point advantage by slamming in three 5-1s in the opening six races – two from the Ostergaard/Blackbird combination and the other courtesy of the Lambert namesakes in heat four.

But Redcar responded well. They bagged a 5-3 in heat seven even though Robert Lambert thwarted a Matej Kus tactical ride before back-to-back advantages greatly reduced the gap.

Adam Roynon, who but for a serious injury in a crash on the opening lap of the season might have been racing for Panthers, showed his liking for the Showground by completing a hat-trick of heat wins and inspiring a 4-2 in the ninth contest before Ostergaard & Blackbird maintained their record of featuring in a 5-1 in every race – although not the in the way they would have liked as they were put in their place by Kus and Jonas B. Andersen in heat 10.

Ostergaard was back in winning form when scything through the traffic to take the flag in a heat 13 4-2 that extended Panthers’ advantage and allowed countryman Palm Toft to seal victory in the penultimate contest.

And they denied Redcar a first away point of the season when their two highest scorers – Robert Lambert and Ostergaard – ensured the meeting finished as it started with a 5-1 over Kus in the re-run finale.

Panthers are back in action on Wednesday when they make a second appearance in a fortnight in front of the Sky TV cameras.

Their trip to Berwick is being screened to the nation although Panthers will be tracking a patched-up team as all three of their Danish riders – Ostergaard, Palm Toft and Grondal – are unavailable due to fixture clashes in their homeland.

SCORES

READYPOWER PANTHERS: Robert Lambert 12, Ulrich Ostergaard 11+2, Michael Palm Toft 8+1, Lewis Blackbird 7+1, Simon Lambert 5+4, Emil Grondal 5+1, Rafal Konopka 3+1.

REDCAR: Matej Kus 14, Adam Roynon 10+1, Lasse Bjerre 8, Jonas B. Andersen 5+2, Stuart Robson 3, Jan Graversen 1, Ben Morley 0.