We must hit the ground running says team boss

Former Panthers hero Richard Hall rides against his old club tonight and tomorrow.
Former Panthers hero Richard Hall rides against his old club tonight and tomorrow.

Team boss Carl Johnson has told his Panthers riders they have to hit form instantly.

The city team launch their Premier League Cup challenge with two Midland Group outings in the space of 24 hours.

They travel to Sheffield tonight (Thursday, 7.30pm) before entertaining Scunthorpe at the East of England Showground tomorrow (7.30pm).

And Panthers already find themselves playing catch-up on two sets of opponents who have completed three meetings already.

Sheffield made a winning start to their Midland Group campaign with an away success at Scunthorpe last Sunday after previously completing two inter-league challenge clashes against top-flight side Leicester.

Meanwhile Scunthorpe had earlier won at Ipswich before also drawing at home to the Witches ahead of the loss at the hands of Sheffield.

Johnson said: “It is not ideal to start the season cold like this.

“We’re going straight into tough meetings against teams who should in theory be a lot sharper than we are.

“But we have to get results and that means we must hit the ground running.

“We proved last season we can be successful up at Sheffield and we need to show that again before hopefully starting as we mean to go on at home against Scunthorpe.

“A couple of defeats can prove very costly in this competition as we found out to our cost last year.

“It’s even harder to qualify for the semi-finals now with more groups, fewer meetings and only the winners going through.”

The new-look Panthers team will be at full-strength for both meetings whereas both opposing teams are without a rider.

Sheffield man Jason Garrity is missing due to an Elite League fixture tonight, but they have drafted in Workington ace Ricky Wells to guest.

Scunthorpe will arrive at Alwalton without Nicolai Klindt tomorrow due to a top-flight clash and have booked former Panthers title hero Richard Hall as a guest. Hall will also ride against Peterborough for his regular club, Sheffield, tonight.

And Johnson insists he is not worried by any possible off-track shenanigans at Sheffield. The two clubs were involved in a stormy play-off quarter-final clash, won by Panthers, last season.

Johnson added: “Speedway is a funny game. One minute everyone is at each other’s throats, then they are shaking hands the next.

“There might well be a bit of needle up there, but I don’t worry about anything that happens off the track.

“All that concerns me is the 15 heats of racing and ensuring we come out on top at the end of the night.

“The way the group is already shaping up, Sheffield look like being our biggest rivals for qualification so it is important we get something there.”