Team boss Carl Johnson admitted he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry following one of the most difficult days in Peterborough Panthers’ history.
The city club suffered a ninth consecutive SGB Premiership defeat when being beaten 54-36 at title-chasing Ipswich on an August 22 night in which they were forced to track a side made up of four guests and just two of their own riders.
Panthers were initially without injury victims Hans Andersen, Charles Wright and Ty Proctor – but missing three men was only the start of their troubles.
Guest Ben Barker, who was drafted in for Wright, then pulled out late on Wednesday (Augsut 21) with Wolverhampton ace Luke Becker stepping up for the job.
But Panthers were dealt two further blows yesterday with the withdrawal of number one Rohan Tungate this morning and the tea-time loss of recent signing Jason Garrity.
Tungate is said to have aggravated a leg complaint in a Swedish fixture on Wednesday while Garrity told Johnson his van broke down on route to Ipswich.
Danish youngster Nick Agertoft (an SGB Championship reserve thrown in at the deep end at number one) and British rider Ben Morley (who replaced Garrity at reserve) were called up at short notice to complete a depleted side and quite rightly earned praise for that alone from Johnson despite failing to score.
He was also complimentary of the performance from his depleted line-up as a whole with stand-in skipper Scott Nicholls leading the way.
Nicholls battled through a second seven-ride shift of the week to top score with a paid 13-point haul. He also led the way at King’s Lynn on Monday when piling up 13+2.
But more salt could be rubbed into the wounds of Panthers with Johnson admitting there is the prospect of financial punishment from the authorities for their weakened team.
Johnson said: “It was a very bad day, but a pretty good night in the circumstances.
“I’m never happy after seeing my team lose a meeting, but we were in an impossible position.
“It was just one thing after another and it was a case of laughing rather than crying at one point!
“I thank every rider – the two of our own and the four guests – for giving their all and every supporter who came to Ipswich to get behind us.
“It was also good to have messages from Hans and Ty after the meeting as well which shows how much they care.
“There are a lot of people who love this club – none more than me – and we all need to stay positive.
“It’s just a shame after everything we’ve been through yesterday that we could end up being fined for tracking a supposedly understrength team.”
Former Panthers captain and title-winner Ulrich Ostergaard was the pick of the many guests with nine points after reeling off victories in his first three outings – all of which came in the opening five races.
The veteran Dane’s exploits incredibly - given the circumstances - helped Panthers into a narrow lead as he led home fellow guest Becker (who also impressed with 8-2) to a 5-1 in the third instalment.
Any dreams of a sporting miracle were soon dashed as Ipswich reeled off four consecutive full-houses from heat six to heat nine to take command, but Panthers never allowed their heads to drop or their effort to wane despite another Witches 5-1 following in the 11th contest.
Becker led home tactical substitute Nicholls for a maximum of their own in the next race but the high-flying hosts sealed victory with a 4-2 in heat 13.
Panthers, who are now 14 points adrift and almost certain to finish bottom, are next in action at Swindon on Thursday (August 29).
IPSWICH: Krystian Pieszczek 11+1, Richard Lawson 9+2, Jake Allen 9, Danny King 8+1, Chris Harris 8, Cameron Heeps 5+2, Edward Kennett 4+2
PANTHERS: Scott Nicholls 11+2, Ulrich Ostergaard (guest) 9, Luke Becker (guest) 8+2, Aaron Summers 8, Nick Agertoft (guest) 0, Ben Morley (guest) 0, Rider replacement for Hans Andersen.