Peterborough Panthers are already in ‘must-win’ territory

Michael Palm Toft in action for Panthers.
Michael Palm Toft in action for Panthers.
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Team manager Carl Johnson says Peterborough Panthers have two ‘must-win meetings’ in the next few days.

The city club host reigning SGB Premiership champions Poole Pirates tonight (Thursday, 7.30pm) and local rivals King’s Lynn Stars on Bank Holiday Monday (5pm) as they bid to ignite their top-flight campaign.

Panthers team boss Carl Johnson.

Panthers team boss Carl Johnson.

Panthers have managed only one win from their opening five league meetings of 2019 (against Poole last month) and now - boosted by new signings Scott Nicholls and Josh Bates - need to hit form to challenge for a play-offs place in a league season that lasts just 12 meetings.

“These are two very important meetings,” stressed Johnson. “In fact they are ones that we must win.

“We’ve already dropped points at home and that’s not something which can continue.

“We’ve beaten Poole at our place once already but it was a bit too close for comfort in all honesty.

“It’s going to be very tight again even though they have made a couple of changes due to the Danish semi-final taking place tonight.

“It’s no secret the track caught our guys out in our last home meeting against Ipswich.

“It’s been great to ride since a lot of work was carried out in the winter, but we now need to tweak it to give ourselves more of a home advantage.”

Nicolai Klindt and Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen are the Poole men to miss the Alwalton clash, but the Pirates have booked new track-record holder Danny King (Ipswich) and Dimitri Berge (Belle Vue) as more than capable guests.

Panthers will then attempt to claim the A47 bragging rights by seeing off a King’s Lynn side who held them to a 45-45 draw in their previous visit to the East of England Arena on Easter Monday.

The Stars are without German racer Erik Riss, who broke his collar-bone in a crash earlier this week, but Johnson does not expect that to make them weaker as reserve duo Michael Palm Toft - a popular former Panthers rider - and Kasper Andersen, who scored 10 points in last month’s clash, can take more rides.

Johnson added: “It’s another big Bank Holiday derby and this time we want to send Lynn and their fans home empty-handed.

“We know they have a lot of riders who love our place and the fact Erik is injured doesn’t really hurt them in my opinion as they have strong reserves.

“We all know what Michael can do at our track and Kasper was excellent here earlier in the season.”

King’s Lynn have lost all three of their other Premiership meetings this season.

A win for Panthers tonight would take them above Poole.

The top four in the table contest the end-of-season play-offs.