The first A47 derby showdown for six years proved to be worth the wait last night (April 22).
Peterborough Panthers and King’s Lynn Stars served up a super Easter Monday spectacle which enthralled a huge East of England Arena crowd and ended in a 45-45 deadlock - an SGB Premiership outcome that was probably pleasing and frustrating in equal measure for both sides (or relieving for the owner of both clubs, Keith Chapman).
Panthers were no doubt buoyed to have recovered from an eight-point deficit on a night when they were almost always behind and suffered more mechanical misgivings – the last of which led to skipper Hans Andersen being excluded from a last-heat decider due to a clutch failure at the start.
Fortunately number one Rohan Tungate triumphed in that race to ensure parity remained with top-scoring reserve Aaron Summers unable to make an impression at the rear.
Meanwhile Lynn were left kicking themselves for not taking advantage of that aforementioned position of strength to claim victory although departing in possession of two league points represented a decent night’s work.
“It was another fantastic meeting for the neutral that went right down to the wire,” said Panthers team boss Carl Johnson.
“I’m obviously proud of the way we fought back, but I’m disappointed we didn’t manage to get the win in the end.
“A draw is certainly not the end of the world, but we had too many riders making slow starts to the meeting.
“It took us a while to wake up and start mixing it with the Lynn riders and we also endured plenty of bad luck as well.
“It was great to see such a huge crowd here and the fans of both teams created a great atmosphere.”
Such was the size of the crowd – estimated to be close to 2,000 - that the start of the meeting was delayed by around 10 minutes to allow more fans through the turnstiles.
The opening race looked set to end in deadlock until leader Lasse Bjerre allowed Stars number one Robert Lambert to dart down his inside to hit the front - and with Erik Riss always able to hold off Tungate for third spot, it meant the visitors kicked off the meeting with a 4-2.
They followed up with more of the same in heat two when past and present Panthers riders did battle.
Current star Summers appeared to have the measure of Michael Palm Toft when scything his way to the front on the opening lap, but the visiting rider displayed all his Alwalton know-how from two spells in red and black to respond with a surge out of the second bend on the final lap and take victory with his partner, Kasper Andersen, back in third.
Panthers claimed their first gain in heat three when Charles Wright went tapes to flag with Bradley Wilson-Dean pouncing on a Lewis Kerr error to grab third spot, but there was frustration in the next race as Ben Barker retired from third spot to hand the visitors another 4-2 with Ty Proctor a comfortable winner over the slow-starting Hans Andersen.
And they found themselves cast eight points adrift when Wright was powerless to prevent a 5-1 from Lambert and Riss in heat five when Wilson-Dean tumbled out.
The sixth heat was eventually completed at the fifth attempt following two jump starts (from Bjerre and Tungate), one tapes malfunction and one tapes destruction (also from Tungate who was excluded and left facing a hefty repair bill for a blown engine).
His replacement Summers then took victory in a shared contest before Panthers halved their deficit when the same man watched the back of captain Hans Andersen in a 5-1 in heat seven.
It increased again in controversial fashion when a heat eight re-run was allowed to start even though Bjerre was clearly not ready to race. Stars reserve Kasper Andersen led his side to a 4-2 in that contest.
The mood in the home camp soon improved thanks to a hat-trick of 4-2s in their favour as they clawed their way level.
Wilson-Dean pulled off a last-gasp swoop to triumph in heat nine after a race-long pursuit of Proctor before Tungate swept past another previously pointless rider, Lewis Kerr, to earn victory in the next race.
And Panthers’ fightback was completed as Hans Andersen became the first rider to defeat Lynn captain Lambert in the 11th instalment when the retirement of Riss handed Barker third place.
But no sooner had parity been restored than Panthers found themselves trailing again.
Stars reserve Kasper Andersen, who was sent out in place of out-of-sorts Thomas Jorgensen, produced a ruthless move to pass Wilson-Dean to take victory and Palm Toft then eased past Summers for third place.
Lambert kept the visitors two points clear by triumphing in a heat 13 deadlock but that advantage was wiped out when Summers stormed to glory to lead Panthers to a 4-2 in the penultimate contest.
If the prospect of a last-heat decider in a derby clash was not already exciting enough, the exclusion of Hans Andersen at the tapes with clutch damage provided further drama.
Top-scoring reserve Summers was deployed in his captain’s place and briefly looked set to pass Lynn man Proctor for third spot.
It was a move which would have earned victory if successful with Tungate clear in front, but Summers didn’t have the pace to make a pass stick and the sides ended level.
Panthers return to action next Monday (April 29) with a league clash at Belle Vue.
PANTHERS: Aaron Summers 10+1, Hans Andersen 9+1, Rohan Tungate 8, Bradley Wilson-Dean 6, Charles Wright 6, Lasse Bjerre 3, Ben Barker 3.
KING’S LYNN: Robert Lambert 13, Kasper Andersen 10, Ty Proctor 8+1, Michael Palm Toft 5+1, Erik Riss 4+1, Thomas Jorgensen 3, Lewis Kerr 2.
1 – Lambert (58.9), Bjerre, Riss, Tungate. 2-4, 2-4.
2 – Palm Toft (58.9), Summers, K. Andersen, Barker. 2-4, 4-8.
3 – Wright (59.9), Jorgensen, Wilson-Dean, Kerr. 4-2, 8-10.
4 – Proctor (59.3), H. Andersen, K. Andersen, Barker (ret). 2-4, 10-14.
5 – Lambert (58.2), Riss, Wright, Wilson-Dean (fell). 1-5, 11-19.
6 – rerun x4 Summers (58.6), Proctor, Palm Toft, Bjerre. 3-3, 14-22.
7 – H. Andersen (58.8), Summers, Jorgensen, Kerr. 5-1, 19-23.
8 – rerun K. Andersen (59.6), Barker, Riss, Bjerre (ret). 2-4, 21-27.
9 – Wilson-Dean (59.3), Proctor, Wright, Palm Toft. 4-2, 25-29.
10 – Tungate (59.5), Kerr, Bjerre, Jorgensen. 4-2, 29-31.
11 – H. Andersen (58.2), Lambert, Barker, Riss (ret). 4-2, 33-33.
12 – K. Andersen (58.9), Wilson-Dean, Palm Toft, Summers. 2-4, 35-37.
13 – Lambert (58.6), Tungate, H. Andersen, Proctor. 3-3, 38-40.
14 – Summers (59.5), K. Andersen, Wright, Kerr. 4-2, 42-42.
15 – rerun Tungate (58.5), Lambert, Proctor, Summers. 3-3, 45-45.