Peterborough Panthers’ long-awaited homecoming is already looking bleak

Michael Palm-Toft is a fitness doubt for Panthers.
Michael Palm-Toft is a fitness doubt for Panthers.
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Peterborough Panthers’ long-awaited homecoming has been beset by problems.

The city side take to their own shale for the first time in almost two months when hosting Belle Vue tonight (September 5, 7.30pm) in the SGB Premiership.

The date with the Aces is followed by another Alwalton outing against Swindon on Monday (September 9) with the club’s final home fixture against Wolverhampton now confirmed for Tuesday, September 17.

But rock-bottom Panthers’ hopes of snapping a miserable 10-meeting losing streak have already been hit by major blows.

New number one Charles Wright is out for a mandatory nine days with concussion following a spill in the SGB Championship last Friday.

And veteran British star Scott Nicholls has been slapped with a seven-day suspension after missing the second tier riders’ individual event last Sunday due to what was deemed to be a non-speedway injury.

Things then went from bad to worse on Monday night when King’s Lynn ace Michael Palm Toft – the club’s chosen guest for Wright – had to pull out of the Norfolk club’s defeat at Wolverhampton with an ankle injury sustained in a high-speed crash.

Those situations meant the club’s riding plans were still up in the air this morning with Nicholls understood to be attempting to overturn his ban and Palm Toft intending to make a late call on his fitness.

Reserve Jason Garrity also pulled out with a bad back last night. Simon Lambert has agreed to replace him.

“We never seem to get a clear run,” said Panthers team chief Carl Johnson, who could be forced into an 11th hour reshuffle.

“It’s so frustrating to have one rider pick up an injury while riding for his other club and to then see his replacement hurt as well in a crash.

“Michael is 50/50 and will make a decision closer to the time whether or not he can ride.

“Losing Scott to suspension is a major blow and I know he is working hard to try to get it overturned, but all we can do is wait and see if that happens.

“It means the line-up is up in the air, but whoever we track we are determined to put on a show.”

Johnson is hopeful the Panthers faithful will turn out in force for the final three meetings of a torrid campaign.

And he is confident the club won’t have to endure a repeat of their lengthy spell without a home fixture again in the future.

“It’s been difficult to be on the road for so long,” added Johnson.

“It will be such a welcome sight to see the Showground again and hopefully there will be a lot of familiar faces to get behind the boys.

“I understand why the fans are so disappointed because I’m a supporter first and foremost myself.

“No one wants to read about their team losing every meeting and we certainly haven’t enjoyed being a part of this bad run.

“We need to finish the season as well as we possibly can but that won’t be easy given we’ve been hit by more problems and we’re facing teams fighting to be in the play-offs.

“We can’t be in this position again where we have such a long run without a home meeting.

“It is always very difficult to get on the Showground in summer – particularly August – due to the big number of other events that take place there.

“But we have a terrific relationship with our landlords who do all they can to support the club and certainly value having speedway running.

“We’re talking to them all the time and there is certainly a big possibility of more dates being made available to us next season.”