Panthers are still not firing on all cylinders

Charles Wright came in for special praise from team boss Carl Johnson.
Charles Wright came in for special praise from team boss Carl Johnson.
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Team manager Carl Johnson insists Panthers are still nowhere near to reaching their full potential.

The city team have settled into the play-off places after completing the opening third of their first season back in the SGB Premiership.

But Johnson, who will take his third-placed side to table-toppers Belle Vue tonight (Thursday, 7.30pm) if the weather improves, is convinced there is much more to come.

He singled out the performances of Charles Wright so far for high praise and has also been thrilled to see captain Hans Andersen shrug off a tough start to hit a run of scorching form which has been briefly interrupted by a shoulder problem.

Eve-of-the-season recruit Aaron Summers has also been a rock-solid performer at reserve, but Johnson feels more consistency is required as a unit while also keeping his fingers crossed the club can avoid further injury issues.

“We’ve raced 12 meetings in league and cup and we’ve still not had all seven riders click on the same night,” said Johnson.

“Charles has been a real star and deserved the chance to represent Great Britain in the GP qualifiers. It’s been great to see him flourish.

“Hans put a really difficult start behind him to start producing the performances we all know he can deliver and hopefully he can pick up from where he left off before his injury.

“Aaron has done a really steady job for us at reserve and earned the right to stay in the team after he helped us out at such short notice.

“In fact all of the boys have showed what they can do in glimpses, but we haven’t always been as consistent as we should be.

“Obviously we had to make a couple of changes and bringing in Scott (Nicholls) and Josh (Bates) gave everyone a bit more belief.

“Scott showed his class in heat 15 when we won at Poole and then rode superbly at Ipswich and I’m excited to see what Josh can do now he is over his injury.

“We’ve got ourselves into a good position in the table and have showed we are capable of picking up results at home and on the road.

“Hopefully we can get back to full-strength as quickly as possible and really kick on.”

Bates, who has only ridden once for Panthers since his arrival last month, will help that process by returning tonight if the trip to Belle Vue goes ahead.

The 23 year-old missed the last three meetings with a rib injury sustained in a crash while riding for Leicester in the SGB Championship.

But Panthers are again without Andersen at the National Speedway Stadium following his aborted comeback in a GP qualifier last weekend. The skipper is now aiming to return in a home fixture against Swindon on June 20.

Panthers are likely to operate the rider replacement facility at number one but could draft in a guest if other meetings are postponed and their clash goes ahead.

TEAMS

BELLE VUE: Max Fricke, Dimitri Berge, Dan Bewley, Steve Worrall, Kenneth Bjerre, Ricky Wells, Jaimon Lidsey.

PANTHERS: Rider replacement or guest for Hans Andersen, Josh Bates, Scott Nicholls, Charles Wright, Rohan Tungate, Aaron Summers, Bradley Wilson-Dean.