Captain Hans Andersen walked away from another horrendous crash as Peterborough Panthers were pipped in their homecoming last night (September 5).
The city side - missing three of their regular riders - went down 48-42 to Belle Vue at the East of England Arena in their first home SGB Premiership fixture for almost two months.
And while the end result was an 11th consecutive defeat for rock-bottom Panthers, there was plenty of pride at the performance produced by a patched-up team and huge relief their skipper emerged relatively unscathed from his heat 12 spill.
Andersen slammed into the fence leaving the second bend and was catapulted into the air before landing heavily, but was soon able to get back to his feet and even took another ride in the finale.
Andersen and top-scoring partner Rohan Tungate arrived at the tapes for that climax with their side four points down and in need of a 5-1 to snatch a draw, but there was no fairytale finish as Belle Vue number one Max Fricke took victory over Tungate in a 4-2 for the visitors with Andersen retiring.
Panthers team boss Carl Johnson said: “Every rider gave everything and the supporters should be really proud of the boys for the way they battled.
“We’ve had so many troubles this season and that was the case again last night with three of our own riders missing, but it was a superb performance in the circumstances.
“There’s no doubt in mind we would have beaten Belle Vue if we had our full team, but due to injuries and suspension that wasn’t possible.
“Hans looked really good until his massive crash and we’re all just happy that he could walk away from it.
“It was good to see him getting points again and he would have been in double-figures but for a retirement on the last lap when leading heat five as well.
“It was also good to see Rohan back scoring big points as well after a tough time lately.”
Panthers were without new number one Charles Wright due to concussion and also had reserve Jason Garrity missing with a back problem. A seven-day ban handed out to Scott Nicholls was another spanner in the works.
But they didn’t let those problems affect them and briefly edged ahead thanks to a 5-1 from excellent guest Michael Palm Toft and Andersen in heat three.
Belle Vue replied in kind immediately before a 4-2 in heat five, when Andersen agonisingly packed up in the lead, stretched the visitors’ advantage to four points.
Another Palm Toft triumph in the sixth contest, which earned a 4-2 as Ty Proctor was gifted his only point in third after Aces man Kenneth Bjerre suffered the first of three consecutive retirements, halved the deficit before Belle Vue bagged a 5-1 in heat eight.
The Danish duo of Andersen and Palm Toft provided an instant maximum response in the next race and another 5-1 courtesy of Tungate and recent signing Ulrich Ostergaard, who passed visiting number one Fricke in fine style, brought the sides level at 33-33 after 11 heats.
Belle Vue pair Dimitri Berge and Dan Bewley took advantage of Andersen’s big crash to claim a 5-1 over guest reserve Simon Lambert in the re-run of that race, but Panthers weren’t about to roll over as Tungate’s triumph inspired a 4-2 in heat 13.
But they couldn’t get any closer as Belle Vue closed with back-to-back 4-2s although the three league points they earned in their final meeting of the season were not enough to secure them a play-off spot.
Panthers are back in home action on Monday (September 9) when they entertain play-off bound Swindon (7.30pm).
PANTHERS 42: Rohan Tungate 14, Michael Palm Toft (guest) 10+1, Hans Andersen 7+1, Ulrich Ostergaard 7+1, Simon Lambert (guest) 3+1, Ty Proctor 1, Rider replacement for Charles Wright.
BELLE VUE 48: Max Fricke 12, Dimitri Berge 10, Jye Etheridge 8+1, Dan Bewley 6+1, Steve Worrall 4+1, Jaimon Lidsey 4+1, Kenneth Bjerre 4.